A Russian spokeswoman dismissed US concerns over WNBA star Brittney Griner’s Russian wrongful detention and said Thursday that the US must show respect for Russia’s laws on the matter.
“If a US citizen was taken in connection with the fact that she was smuggling drugs, and she does not deny this, then this should be commensurate with our Russian, local laws, and not with those adopted in San Francisco, New York and Washington,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, according to ABC News.
“You understand, if drugs are legalized in the United States, in a number of states, and this is done for a long time, and now the whole country will become drug-addicted, this does not mean that all other countries are following the same path,” Zakharova continued.
Griner has been detained in Russia since February after it was discovered that her vape cartridges contained hashish cannabis oil. Cannabis in Russia is strictly illegal, with possession over 6 grams a criminal offense. Griner’s attorney’s said she had a prescription for the substance.
Griner pleaded guilty to the Russian drug charges in early July and said she packed the cartridges by accident. In court Griner said, “I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law.”
In a later statement Griner told the Russian judge that she was prescribed medical marijuana in Arizona and that her prescription should contribute to sentencing leniency.
According to The Washington Examiner, the US State Department in May categorized Griner’s detention as “wrongful.” That sentiment has been consistently echoed by her teammates and the broader sports community.
At Wednesday night’s ESPY’s, ESPN’s annual awards show, WNBA player Skylar Diggins-Smith said Griner was “wrongfully detained” and her comments were followed by NBA star Steph Curry who said, “We cannot stop fighting for her, we cannot stop believing for her and we will not stop hoping for the day when we can welcome her home safely.”
US Women’s Soccer Player Megan Rapinoe also inserted an opinion and said “BG deserves to be free.” Medal of Freedom recipient and Victoria’s Secret model Rapinoe also described Griner as a “political prisoner” after saying that American sports stars should wield their “collective power” to change the world as they see fit.
Griner’s trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday and she faces up to 10 years in prison.
Biden spoke to Griner’s wife in June, and a readout of the call said that the White House believes Griner to be “wrongfully detained in Russia under intolerable circumstances.”
Biden said that he is “working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world.”
“The President directed his national security team to remain in regular contact with Cherelle and Brittney’s family, and with other families of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad, to keep them updated on efforts to secure the release of their loved ones as quickly as possible,” the White House said.
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