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US basketball star Griner “hopes” to return home: lawyer

#basketball #star #Griner #hopes #return #home #lawyer

US basketball star Brittney Griner “hopes” to return home from Russia, where she is on trial for drug smuggling, her attorney said Tuesday while discussing a prisoner swap with Washington.

Griner, a two-time basketball gold medalist and women’s NBA champion who played in Russia, was arrested in February, just days before Moscow launched its military intervention in Ukraine.

The 31-year-old athlete has been charged with drug smuggling for possessing vape cartridges containing cannabis oil and is on trial in the city of Khimki, just outside Moscow.

Griner appeared in court on Tuesday in a khaki T-shirt, looked down as she walked in and was placed in a defendants’ cage, an AFP journalist reported.

She remained solemn as two narcotics experts testified during the hearing.

“Of course she heard the news, so she hopes that she might come home sometime, and we hope so too,” one of Griner’s lawyers, Maria Blagovolina, told reporters in English.

Blagovolina said Griner’s legal team was “not involved in any of the negotiations” about a possible prisoner swap.

However, she added that Griner would be eligible for an exchange “very soon” after the verdict.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday held his first talks with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov since Moscow sent troops to Ukraine on February 24.

Blinken said he “pressed the Kremlin” to accept a Washington proposal to release Griner and Paul Whelan, a US citizen jailed in Russia on espionage charges.

Griner was arrested when she came to Russia during the US offseason to play basketball with UMMC Ekaterinburg – a common route for American stars looking for extra income.

At a previous hearing, Griner said she had no intention of breaking the law or using the banned substance in Russia.

Griner has pleaded guilty and faces up to 10 years in prison.

The next hearing will take place on Thursday.

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