The WNBA star was arrested at a Moscow airport in February with vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her baggage.
A Russian court docket has discovered US basketball star Brittney Griner responsible of drug smuggling, and sentenced her to 9 years in jail in a case that has reached the very best ranges of United States-Russia diplomacy.
The court docket “discovered the defendant responsible” of smuggling and possessing “a major quantity of narcotics”, choose Anna Sotnikova informed a court docket within the city of Khimki simply outdoors Moscow.
The court docket additionally fined her a million rubles ($16,300).
US President Joe Biden was fast to sentence the decision, calling it “unacceptable” and renewing his requires the participant’s launch.
“My administration will proceed to work tirelessly and pursue each attainable avenue to deliver Brittney and Paul Whelan dwelling safely as quickly as attainable,” he stated, referring to a different American imprisoned in Russia on an espionage conviction.
Sotnikova had stated on Thursday that Griner dedicated the crime “intentionally”. However Griner had testified in the course of the trial it was a mistake.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a Girls’s Nationwide Basketball Affiliation (WNBA) star, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on February 17 when she entered the nation with vape canisters containing hashish oil.
She known as it an “trustworthy mistake” whereas talking within the courtroom Thursday earlier than sentencing.
“I by no means meant to harm anyone, I by no means meant to place in jeopardy the Russian inhabitants, I by no means supposed to interrupt Russian regulation,” Griner stated by way of a translator whereas standing within the steel cage reserved for defendants in Russian courtrooms.
She apologised to her household, teammates, and her partner.
Her detention got here one week earlier than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine amid a spike of tensions between Moscow and Washington.
Griner had pleaded responsible when her trial started in July, and stated then she didn’t deliver the canisters into Russia deliberately. Hashish is prohibited in Russia for each medicinal and leisure functions.
Consideration will now flip to the high-stakes risk of a prisoner swap.
In July, the US Division of State designated Griner as “wrongfully detained”, transferring her case below the supervision of its particular presidential envoy for hostage affairs, successfully the federal government’s chief hostage negotiator.
Final week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, urging him to just accept a deal below which Griner and Whelan would go free.
The Lavrov-Blinken name marked the highest-level recognized contact between Washington and Moscow since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine greater than 5 months in the past. The direct outreach over Griner is at odds with US efforts to isolate the Kremlin.
“I do know everyone retains speaking about political pawn and politics, however I hope that’s removed from this courtroom,” Griner stated on Thursday earlier than the choose’s ruling.
Griner, 31, had flown to Russia to hitch her workforce, UMMC Ekaterinburg, for the playoffs after spending time at dwelling within the US. She has performed within the Russian Girls’s Basketball Premier League in the course of the WNBA low season.
In her testimony final week, Griner expressed puzzlement as to how the vape cartridges had ended up in her baggage.
“I nonetheless don’t perceive to today how they ended up in my bag,” she informed the court docket on July 27. “If I needed to guess on how they ended up in my baggage, I used to be in a rush packing.”