NPR Provide Latest Update on Griner Moscow Trial

Many loved ones and supporters of U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner have spoken up about her situation and called for her release since she was first detained in Russia on drug charges in February.

As her trial has unfolded over the past month, U.S.-based advocates have ramped up public pressure on the Biden administration to bring her home, while members of the Russian team she plays for in the off-season have testified in defense of her character both on and off the court.

Griner herself hasn’t made many public remarks, beyond issuing a brief guilty plea in which she admitted to bringing cannabis into Russia — where it’s illegal for both medical and recreational purposes — and emphasizing that she packed her bags in a hurry and had no intention of breaking any laws. She could face up to 10 years if convicted.

At a court hearing on Wednesday, the WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist finally took the stand herself to explain why she had the vape cartridges in the first place, how they ended up in her luggage and what happened to her after they were discovered.

“She didn’t need a lot of preparation because she just told her story and she’s had a lot of time to think about it since February,” Griner’s lawyer, Alexander Boikov, told NPR after the hearing. “It’s not hard to tell the truth.”

Griner says her rights weren’t read to her at the time of her arrest

Griner testified that she had traveled to Russia in February to join her Russian team, UMMC Yekaterinburg, for the playoffs. (It’s not unusual for WNBA athletes to play for foreign teams in the off-season to supplement their incomes, which are significantly lower than that of their NBA counterparts.)

Griner was stopped at the airport after customs officers found the vape cartridges in her luggage. She reiterated on Wednesday that she hadn’t meant to take them with her to Russia, and conjectured that she had forgotten about them because she’d been stressed and in a hurry to catch her flight.

“I still don’t understand to this day how it got in my bags,” she told the court in her testimony.

While Griner says she’d forgotten about the vape cartridges, she was keenly aware of packing certain comfort foods from home, including her favorite Texas barbecue sauce and spices.

“I like to eat a lot,” she added.

She went on to describe a confusing scene at the airport. Russian authorities were unable to provide translation beyond basic words like “sign this,” forcing her to turn to Google Translate to try to understand what the documents actually said.

“I was told what to do, but not why or what it means,” Griner said.

She also said her rights were never read to her at the airport.

Griner was allowed to access a lawyer before being interrogated, though says the translation problems continued. She recalled the court providing her with a stack of documents only for a translator to tell her, “Well, basically it says you’re guilty.”

Griner’s legal team said they would present more witnesses at next Tuesday’s hearing, and suggested that their closing arguments would focus on violations of Griner’s legal rights.