New York– Getting into any kind of legal trouble in a foreign country is always a frightening predicament to find oneself or to have an unloved one in. The stakes become even higher when the country you’ve crossed is at odds with the United States. Take Russia, for instance. Russia’s rules are crystal clear regarding drugs; “Drugs possession without intent to supply, in amounts exceeding 2.5 grams of heroin, for instance, is punishable by incarceration for up to ten years.
WBNA player Brittney Griner plead guilty to possession of drugs after being detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport where police found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage in February 2022. During the court proceedings, Briner’s defense was that the crime she committed was done unintentionally, due to her hasty packing prior to her journey. She has been detained in Russia for the past four months and is fearful that she will never come home. Griner detailed her fears in a letter home to her wife.
In response to that later, President Joe Biden called Briner personally to provide her reassurance of his support. Since Griner is a citizen of the United States, President Joe Biden appears to be doing all he can to get her released. However, the situation is touchy. The U.S. currently does not have a good relationship with Moscow because of its actions with the conflict in Ukraine. Additionally, Griner did acknowledge and plead guilty to committing a crime. WNBA Star Pleads Guilty
Being Accused of a Crime Overseas
Britney’s predicament is a daunting lesson for many Americans; It is highly recommended that before visiting a country, you research their laws and customs. You may commit a crime unknowingly, without realizing the penalties. Most people in the U.S. don’t believe ten years is an appropriate sentence for carrying a bit of cannabis oil. However, the rules are the rules.
U.S. citizens that commit serious crimes overseas have a good chance of being extradited. This means that a nation or state surrenders the guilty party to another nation or state. These arrangements are cleverly held together with the existence of “extradition treaties.” Currently, the U.S. has extradition treaties with over 100 nations. However, a state is not obligated to surrender a criminal to another country. In layman’s terms, this means that Russia has the right to “protect” anything within its own borders. So far, Russia is maintaining that Briner has been dealt with justly and fairly.
Instances of Clemency
Despite being at odds with Russia, it is quite possible that a deal can be struck. According to the New York Times, the State Department confirmed that the U.S., which recently closed its airspace to Russian aviation, allowed a Russian government charter plane to land in Washington.
In Washington, Russian officials retrieved employees of Russia’s mission at the United Nations who were extradited from the United States on suspicions of espionage. This may be a false equivalency due to the verity that “suspected of espionage,” is not quite “guilty of espionage,” but the fact still remains that despite the relationship between the two countries, an amicable conclusion, or trade was made. Perhaps there can be help for Griner.
Support is growing everywhere for the basketball player. Nearly 1,200 prominent Black women signed a letter to Biden and Harris asking the administration to secure Brittney Griner’s release;
Additionally, the W.N.B.A. stated that Griner “has the W.N.B.A.’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States.”
Thumbnail Credits: Nick Oza/The Republic-USA