A judge in Russia convicted American basketball star Brittney Griner of drug possession and trafficking on Thursday and sentenced her to nine years in prison.
Judge Anna Sotnikova said Griner’s time in custody since her arrest in February will count towards the sentence.
Griner reacted to the sentence with some emotion. She listened to the verdict from the defendant’s cage, a lifeless stare on her face.
While gathering evidence and drawing his conclusions on Thursday, the judge said Griner, 31, had brought the drugs into Russia illegally.
Before the unusually quick verdict was announced, Griner made a final appeal to the court. She said she had no intention of breaking the law by bringing vaping canisters of cannabis oil into the country when she flew to Moscow in February to play basketball in the city of Yekaterinburg.
Attention now turns to the possibility of a high-stakes prisoner swap that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken proposed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Under the proposed deal, Griner and Paul Whelan, an American detained in Russia on espionage charges, would be released.
Russian officials remain in the face of a possible deal and oppose US statements about the incident, saying a possible deal should be discussed through “silent diplomacy without speculative disclosure.”
U.S. President Joe Biden issued a statement about the ruling deeming Griner “wrongfully detained,” a designation that Russian officials have opposed.
“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence. This is another reminder of what the world already knows: Russia is wrongly holding Brittney. That is unacceptable. , and I urge Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, family, friends and teammates,” Biden said.
Associated Press report.
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