Brittney Griner, a great basketball player for the United States, was given a nine-year prison term in Russia for drug offenses. “I love my family,” Griner, 31, was heard saying as she was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs. The two-time Olympian admitted to having cannabis oil, but she called it an honest mistake in court. She was found guilty of drug trafficking and possession by a court in Khimki, close to Moscow. The prosecution asked for a nine-and-a-half-year sentence.
The American had already spent a significant amount of time in detention, the presiding judge stated in reading the verdict on Thursday. Maria Blagovolina, the defense attorney for Griner, claimed that her client was extremely angry and very anxious. She barely speaks. She’s going through a difficult moment. The defense team declared that they will challenge the judgment.
A vape cartridge containing cannabis oil was discovered in Griner’s luggage in February at an airport close to Moscow, leading to her detention. Griner is regarded as one of the best players in the world. For the US off-season, she had traveled to Russia to play club basketball. Soon after, Russia invaded Ukraine, and since then, her case has been the focus of prominent US-Russian diplomacy.
The sentence was labeled “unacceptable” by US President Joe Biden. “Russia, and any country engaging in wrongful detention, represents a threat to the safety of everyone traveling, working, and living abroad,” stated US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Given that the US and Russia have been talking about a prospective prisoner swap that could include the basketball player, it is uncertain how long she will be imprisoned.
According to reports in US media, Washington may release the Merchant of Death, or imprisoned Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, to Moscow as part of the agreement. Griner stated, “I made an honest mistake, and I hope in your ruling it does not end my life. I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime,”
Griner added that she was forced to use translation software on her phone to communicate and that she had not been given access to a lawyer or a description of her rights during the first few hours of her imprisonment.