A Russian court on Tuesday began hearing an appeal by U.S. WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner against her conviction and nine-year jail sentence for possession and smuggling of drugs, but promptly adjourned for two hours at her lawyers’ request.
Three judges were presiding over the appeals court in Krasnogorsk near Moscow, while Griner was taking part via video link from a detention centre in the town of Novoye Grishino, just outside Moscow.
Her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, requested the brief delay because they had been held up getting to the court, and the hearing was due to resume at 1 p.m. (1000 GMT). They had previously said they expected a decision on Griner’s appeal to be issued later on Tuesday, shortly after the hearing.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist, was arrested on Feb. 17 at a Moscow airport with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is banned in Russia. She was sentenced on Aug. 4 to nine years in a penal colony
At her trial, she pleaded guilty to the charges but said she had made an “honest mistake” and had not meant to break the law.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday that Washington was working to free Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, serving 16 years in jail after being convicted of spying, and that there had been “active discussions, including in recent days”.
“We have not weighed in on the various judicial proceedings and judicial steps because as we’ve made clear, we believe that these proceedings have been largely shambolic,” Price told reporters.
Elizabeth Rood, the U.S. chargee d’affaires in Moscow, was present at Tuesday’s appeal hearing.