• Griner said an interpreter failed to translate what authorities were saying when she was being detained
  • She said officials did not explain what the papers she was asked to sign were for
  • Her detention first became public on March 5

Brittney Griner, the American basketball star who has been detained in Russia since February, testified in a Russian court in her trial on a drug-possession charge that could see her face up to 10 years in prison.

In her first testimony Wednesday, Griner said she landed from a 13-hour flight when she was detained at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Khimki, Russia, after Moscow police found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage, which is considered illegal in the country, Fox News reported.

Griner said an interpreter failed to translate most of what the Russian authorities were saying while she was being detained. The American basketball star also said the officials asked her to sign documents without explanation about what the papers were.

"Translations were not very good. I remember one time seeing a stack of papers that he was supposed to transfer to me, and he looked at me in a brief moment, and his exact words were basically, ‘You’re guilty,'" Griner was quoted as saying by Fox News.

Griner also argued that Russian officials did not give her any explanation of her rights or provided her access to a lawyer in the initial hours of her detention. While she has pleaded guilty to drug-possession charges levied against her, Griner said she had a doctor's recommendation to use medical marijuana and that she unintentionally brought cannabis oil to Russia when she was packing in a hurry.

Griner flew to Moscow in hopes of returning to play at the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League during the Women’s National Basketball Association’s (WBNA) off-season.

"My career is my whole life,'' she said, according to ESPN. "I dedicated everything -- time, my body, time away from my family. I spent six months out of the year away from everybody, and with a huge time difference.''

Griner has been in Russian custody since Feb. 17. However, the Russian Federal Customs Service did not make her detention public until March 5, more than a week after the invasion of Ukraine began.

The U.S. State Department in May argued that Griner is being "wrongfully detained" in Russia, a claim that Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova later dismissed.

"If a U.S. 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," Zakharova said. "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."

The Biden administration is now working on a potential deal that would involve exchanging convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who has been detained in Russia since 2019.

Brittney Griner faces up to a decade behind bars in Russia on charges of smuggling cannabis vape cartridges
Brittney Griner faces up to a decade behind bars in Russia on charges of smuggling cannabis vape cartridges AFP / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV