Brittney Griner: What could be next in her case


According to experts, the country’s strict drug laws also indicate what will happen next to Greener.

Some experts who spoke with CNN have warned that Grinner’s arrest could be quickly linked to the geopolitical picture and used as a trump card for negotiations in the coming days. Others say it’s too early to draw any connection between Grinner’s alleged drug and tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian federal customs said criminal proceedings were underway, and state media reported that Greener was accused of drug smuggling after hemp oil was found in a suitcase at Moscow airport.

Given how strict Russian drug law is, these are serious criticisms, says William E. Butler, a professor of Penn State Dickinson Law.

“Russia has a zero-tolerance attitude towards narcotic substances and has had it for decades, so it’s a serious crime,” he says.

Butler said the crimes accused of Grinner could be sentenced to five to ten years in prison, in addition to possible fines.

Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia for several weeks.

False accusations are possible

But it’s also important to consider another possibility, says Peter Magus, a professor of law at the University of Illinois and an expert in Russian civil code.

“Especially on the part of human rights advocates, there were many allegations to plant substances in people,” he says.

And a February State Department warning urged Americans to avoid traveling to Russia, pointing out the dangers of arrest.

“Russian security agencies have arrested U.S. citizens on false charges, refused fair and transparent treatment, and convicted them in secret trials and / or without presenting credible evidence.” .. The warning said..

The state of the prison became a fire

Authorities have not disclosed where Greener was detained, and her family has been silent about the details of the case. However, her arrest brought new attention to two other Americans detained in Russia, Paul Wheelan and Trevor Reed.

Both the man and his family denied accusations against them and criticized their treatment in custody.

Welan, a former U.S. Marine, was detained in a hotel in Moscow in 2018 and arrested on suspicion of espionage, which he consistently denies. He was convicted in June 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison in a trial widely accused of being unfair by US authorities. By phone with CNN in June“It’s very difficult to get medical care here,” Welan explained the harsh conditions of a remote labor camp that he works every day at a clothing factory he called a “sweatshop.”

Former U.S. Marines Reed, who had been detained in Russia since 2019, said he endangered the “life and health” of Russian police officers after drinking overnight, according to state news agency TASS. He was sentenced to nine years in prison in a month. US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan called the trial “Theatre of the Absurd” after Reed’s 2020 decision.

Trevor Reed stands among defendants & # 39; Cage during a 2020 court hearing in Moscow.
On a recent call from a Russian prison where he was detained to his parents, Reed said he was vomiting bloodAccording to his father, he had an intermittent fever and had chest pain. His family is worried that he has tuberculosis.Reed’s parents in a statement on Thursday They said he was worried that he would be sent to the cell instead of medical...

“It’s hard to explain how panicked we are after hearing his voice today,” his parents said.

CNN is seeking comment from the Russian Federation Prison.

American journalist Nick Danilov, who was detained in the Soviet Union in 1986, told CNN that he had questions about where Greener was detained.

“The Russians caught her and she lost contact …. It’s very likely she’s in the prison where I was taken, the quarantine prison,” says Danilov. ..

Danilov, who was imprisoned for several weeks in isolation while authorities were negotiating release, says he believes his roommate in prison is tasked with informing authorities of his actions- And Greener was able to put himself in a similar situation.

US reporter Nicholas Danilov is holding a T-shirt after being released from detention in Russia in 1986.

Greener needs to contact lawyers and consulate representatives

Russian law guarantees that Greener has access to lawyers and consular representatives, Butler says.

“She understands that I am in investigative detention …. She will have the right to defend. She will have the right to contact the embassy, ​​the US Consulate, she. You will have the right to be visited, “he said. To tell.

But US lawmakers told CNN Thursday that consular officials couldn’t meet Greener.

“The embassy requested access to her from the consulate … and it was denied for three weeks. She contacted her Russian lawyer, who was her agent and her. We have contacted her family, “we know she’s okay,” US Congressman Colin Allred, a Texas Democrat, told CNN’s “Don Lemon Tonight.”

“We know she has been detained for three weeks without official access by the government. This is really rare and very worrisome,” Allred said.

CNN has contacted Russian authorities regarding access to Grinner’s Consulate, but has not responded.

The State Department refused to provide details of the case because of privacy concerns.

“We are aware of the incident and are closely involved,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement Thursday.

War “makes everything more complicated”

This is obvious: the timing is terrible. A few days after Grinner was detained in February, Russia invaded Ukraine, increasing tensions between Russia and the United States.

“It’s hard to imagine a more difficult bargaining environment,” said Philip Mudd, CNN’s anti-terrorism analyst who worked at the CIA. “The difficulty of diplomatic negotiations with Russians we do not trust clearly overlaps with the fact that we are involved in the war and the Russians do not trust us. I don’t know if it’s okay. It’s more difficult now. “

The war in Ukraine “makes everything more complicated” and Russian authorities will be more likely to manipulate the situation, said Nikolay Marinov, a professor of political science at the University of Houston.

“They are less positive, less supportive, and may take some time to provide more formal information,” he says.

The trial may be quick, but the appeal can be lengthy

Authorities have not disclosed when or when the proceedings in Grinner will be held. Legal experts told CNN that the trial could be immediate, but the appeal could be lengthy.

“Usually, if the facts are relatively simple, things are expected to go very quickly. There are airport expert witnesses, physical evidence, and lab reports,” says Maggs. “It shouldn’t take too long, but then the complaint can take any kind of time.”

US Citizen Paul Weeran attends a 1020 trial in Moscow City Court.
He points out the recent incident of American businessman Michael Calvey, More than two years since he was first detained.. Calvey was convicted of embezzlement-accusations he denied.

There may be an “off lamp”

Butler says, despite the serious accusations faced by Greener, there may still be an “off-ramp.”

“If they determined she had made a mistake, she went through the green line instead of the red line (at the airport), she didn’t declare it, they made it a criminal offense. Instead, it could be treated as an executive crime, “he says. “If they do, they will not prosecute her for her smuggling, but will prosecute her for her … possession. If so, she will be subject to her fines and perhaps deportation. Will be. “

Two-time Olympic basketball gold medalist and WNBA star, Greener will play for the Russian club UMMC Yekaterinburg during the WNBA's off-season.

But Butler emphasizes that there is still much we do not know about the Greener case.

“It’s very difficult to judge from the outside …. In this case, we know the actual facts and surprisingly little what happened after the detention,” Butler says.

Prisoner exchange may be possible

At some point in the past, when Americans were detained in Russia and other countries, their release was negotiated as part of a prisoner exchange.

“In my case, the FBI arrested the Soviet Union for espionage in New York, and the Russians arrested me. I was nearing the end of my mission in Moscow (for US news and world reports). (Working), and … eventually, negotiations were held, including my release, including a solution for the man arrested in New York, and several other factors were involved, “Danilov said. Recollect.

At that time, Danilov admitted that he had pushed for the release of President Reagan.

“This was a very complicated situation. If President Reagan didn’t have a very deep and personal interest in my case, let me stand in front of you and say” thank you “. It will probably take several years before that happens. The president, “” Danilov, said at a press conference next to Reagan after he was released in 1986.

US reporter Nicholas Danilov stands by President Ronald Reagan after he was released from detention in Russia.

Can I make similar deals with Reed, Whelan and Griner?

“The question is whether it’s enough to trade with three Americans, but the deal is a deal and Putin is ready to make a deal,” says Mad. “If there is a Russian he wants, I don’t know why it’s worth avoiding negotiations just because we’re at war.”

Marinov says the Grinner case is only part of the geopolitical picture. But there is no doubt that Russian authorities are thinking about how to use it for their own benefit, he says.

“I’m confident that we have 10 plans at the moment on how we can take advantage of this and what spins we can spin, that is, what the greatest benefits we can get. “He says.

He says cases like Gleiner have been resolved through past negotiations.

But how long it can take in this case is yet another unanswered question, he says.

CNN’s Rosa Flores, Brian Todd, Lucy Kafanov, Holly Yan, Travis Caldwell and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

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