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Basketballer Brittney Griner ‘struggling, terrified, alone’ ahead of Russian trial, wife says

Maggie Baska June 30, 2022
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Brittney Griner wears a grey shirt and has her hair in locks as she walks to a preliminary court hearing in Russia

Brittney Griner's wife says the two-time Olympic gold medalist is "struggling" and "terrified" as she awaits trial in Russia. (Kirill Kudryavtse/AFP via Getty)

Brittney Griner is “terrified” and “struggling” ahead of the start of her trial in Russia, according to the WNBA star’s wife. 

The Phoenix Mercury player has been imprisoned in Russia for four months on drug charges, and her trial is expected to begin Friday (1 July).

While being detained, Griner has not been allowed to call home, her wife, Cherelle Griner, told Rev Al Sharpton on his SiriusXM radio show Keepin’ It Real.

She has been allowed to write letters, in which she puts on a brave front, according to Cherelle.

“Because I am her person, she is always going to write persuasively to make sure I don’t break because she knows I’m studying for my bar, and she knows I have all these things going on,” Cherelle said.

“And she’s trying to always be my strong person so she’s telling me she’s OK.”

She continued: “She’s like, ‘I’m OK, babe. I’m hardened. I’m not me right now. When I come home, it’s going to take me a minute to get back to myself, but I’m holding on. I won’t break until I come home. I won’t let them break me. I know they are trying to, but I’m going to do my best to just hold on until I can get home’.”

But, she added: “Every second that goes by, BG is struggling – she is a human. She’s struggling. She’s there, terrified. She’s there, alone.”

Griner has been held in jail on drug smuggling charges since 17 February after Russian authorities alleged the Olympic gold medallist had been found in possession of vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis.

 

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Cherelle said that everything about the situation is just the “biggest nightmare” on top of the “fact that [Brittney Griner] is in a situation where this isn’t even a trial”.

Legal experts have said that its unlikely Brittney Griner will be found innocent, and Cherelle said “nothing about this is justice”. 

Cherelle said she’d been told by federal officials that securing her wife’s release is a “priority” and that the matter is at the “highest point of the chain of command”.

But as the government has yet to “execute” anything, she hopes public pressure could play a key role in securing her wife’s freedom. 

“Brittney matters,” she said. “We’re never going to shut up about this until she’s back.”

Brittney Griner is set to stand trial after her detention has been repeatedly extended amid growing global tensions due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. She could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. 

It is truly a terrifying prospect for the two-time Olympic gold medallist as less than one per cent of defendants in criminal cases in Russia are acquitted, according to the Associated Press. Also, unlike in the US, these acquittals can be overturned. 

The Biden administration declared Griner as “wrongfully detained” by Russia in May and vowed that the US would “get aggressive” to ensure Griner’s freedom.

Griner appeared in court hearing Monday (27 June) as her trial date was set. The preliminary court session was closed to the public, and it was reported that no US Embassy officials were in attendance.

Griner’s lawyer Aleksandr Boikov said he expected the trial to potentially last up to two months, the New York Times reported. 

 

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