WNBA star Brittney Griner sentenced to nine years in prison by Russian court

US’ Women’s National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball participant Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with unlawful possession of hashish, waits for the decision inside a defendants’ cage earlier than a court listening to in Khimki exterior Moscow, on August 4, 2022. 

Evgenia Novozhenina | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – A Russian court on Thursday discovered Brittney Griner responsible of drug expenses and sentenced her to nine years in prison, because the U.S. authorities scrambles to safe the WNBA star’s launch.

The court additionally fined Griner 1 million rubles ($16,301).

The 31-year-old Griner, who performs skilled basketball in Russia throughout the WNBA offseason, was arrested in February at a Russian airport on accusations that she was smuggling vape cartridges with hashish oil.

Under Russian regulation, the cost carried a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. During closing arguments, Russian prosecutors requested the court to sentence her to 9½ years in prison and situation the 1 million ruble high-quality.

Griner requested the court for leniency earlier Thursday.

“I never meant to hurt anybody,” Griner stated following closing arguments, in accordance to NBC News. “I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population. I never meant to break any laws here.”

Her legal professionals have beforehand stated Griner solely makes use of hashish medically and has by no means used it whereas in Russia.

Last month, Griner pleaded responsible to the costs however stated she had unintentionally packed the hashish canisters in her suitcase as a result of she was in a rush.

The court’s resolution comes one week after the Biden administration confirmed it made a proposal to the Russian authorities for the discharge of Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan. In an announcement Thursday, President Joe Biden referred to as the prison sentence “unacceptable” and referred to as for Griner’s speedy launch.

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

“My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible,” the president added.

Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed reporters that the U.S. “put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago” for Griner and Whelan’s launch. The prime U.S. diplomat additionally stated he would focus on the supply with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in what can be the primary identified dialog between the 2 for the reason that Kremlin invaded Ukraine.

“This is delicate work,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby informed reporters throughout a White House press briefing. “We’ve made a proposal, and we urge the Russians to move positively on that proposal so we can get these two individuals home.”

“The details of it, I think are best left between us and our Russian counterparts,” Kirby stated.

‘I’m terrified I is perhaps right here ceaselessly’

US WNBA basketball famous person Brittney Griner stands inside a defendants’ cage earlier than a listening to on the Khimki Court, exterior Moscow on July 26, 2022. 

Alexander Zemlianichenko | AFP | Getty Images

Days earlier than she pleaded responsible final month, Griner penned a letter to Biden asking for his direct assist together with her case.

“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,” the skilled athlete wrote in a July 5 letter.

“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and … other American detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home,” Griner wrote.

After receiving the letter, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris referred to as the WNBA star’s spouse, Cherelle Griner. Biden additionally wrote a response to Griner that U.S. diplomats hand-delivered in Moscow.

Biden reassured her spouse that he’s working to safe Griner’s launch as quickly as potential, in accordance to a White House readout of the decision. He additionally stated on the decision that he’s working to launch Whelan, who’s serving a 16-year sentence in Russia.

Whelan was arrested in 2018 on expenses of performing as a spy for the United States. At the time he was arrested, Whelan was visiting Russia to attend a marriage, in accordance to his brother, David Whelan. 

Last month, Biden signed an govt order that may increase the administration’s obtainable instruments to deter hostage-taking and the wrongful detention of U.S. nationals.

The govt order, often called “Bolstering Efforts to Bring Hostages and Wrongfully Detained United States Nationals Home,” will authorize the imposition of economic sanctions and visa bans on folks concerned in hostage-taking.

“This executive order reflects the administration’s commitment not just to the issues generally but to the families in particular, and it has been informed by the government’s regular engagements with them,” stated a senior Biden administration official final month, who spoke on situation of anonymity in order to share particulars concerning the new govt order.

In April, Russia agreed to launch former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed in a prisoner alternate with the United States.

Reed was accused of assaulting a Russian police officer and detained by authorities there in 2019. He was later sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison. Reed and his household have maintained his innocence, and the U.S. authorities described him as unjustly imprisoned.

For Reed’s launch, Biden agreed to free Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the United States.

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