Brittney Griner Sentenced To 9 Years In Russian Prison

U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison in a Russian court Thursday after being found guilty of deliberately bringing cannabis-infused vape cartridges into Russia.

Brittney GrinerPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

Griner, a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) all-star and two-time Olympic gold medallist, was arrested in mid-February as she arrived to play for a Russian team during the WNBA offseason.

President Joe Biden described the verdict as “unnaceptable.” He has also called for Russia’s immediate release of Griner and claimed his administration, under immense pressure to help free Americans held in Russia, would continue to fight for her release.

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” President Biden said in his statement.

“It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.”

Griner’s lawyers said they would appeal the sentence. Her defense team said the court had ignored all evidence presented, as well as Griner’s guilty plea.

“Taking into account the amount of the substance – not to mention the defects of the expertise – and the plea, the verdict is absolutely unreasonable,” her defense team said in their statement.

Griner was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Feb. 17 with cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. While she pleaded guilty, she said she had neither intended to bring a banned substance to Russia nor to hurt anybody.

“I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling, that it doesn’t end my life here,” Griner said in court on Thursday before breaking down in tears.

“My parents taught me two important things: one, take ownership of your responsibilities and two, work hard for everything that you have. That’s why I pled guilty to my charges.”

“I want to say again that I had no intent on breaking any Russians laws,” she told the court. “I had no intent, I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime.”

Griner also referred to the international politics around her case, saying: “I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope that is far from this courtroom”.

It has been alleged that Washington was willing to exchange convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout, whose life helped inspire the 2005 Hollywood film “Lord of War” for the basketball star in a prisoner swap.

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