An American basketball player held in Russia since February for possession of cannabis oil pleaded guilty in a Russian court Thursday.
“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Brittney Griner, 31, said, speaking English, which was then translated into Russian for the court.
“I’d like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare,” she added.
The WNBA star, who also played in Russia, could face 10 years in prison.
She is due back in court on July 14.
The trial began Friday, July 1, and resumed Thursday.
On Monday, Griner sent a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden asking him to “do all you can” for her and other Americans detained or held hostage in Russia.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that Biden has read the letter.
Griner’s representatives shared parts of the letter Monday.
“As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,” Griner wrote.
The White House said Wednesday that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with the detained basketball player’s wife, Cherelle Griner, to stress that the administration is working to secure her release from Russia as soon as possible.
Russian officials have maintained a hard line toward Griner.
“This is a serious offense, confirmed by indisputable evidence. … Attempts to present the case as if the American was detained illegally do not hold up,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexei Zaitsev said Wednesday.
In a tweet, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said officials with the U.S Embassy in Moscow attended Brittney Griner’s trial “and delivered to her a letter from President Biden.”
“We will not relent until Brittney, Paul Whelan, and all other wrongfully detained Americans are reunited with their loved ones,” he added.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.