Basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced to 9 years in Russian jail on drug fees

US basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced Thursday in Russia for drug possession and sentenced to 9 years in jail following a politically accused trial that got here amid mounting tensions between Moscow and Washington over Ukraine and will result in a trade of high-risk prisoners between the 2 world powers.

31-year-old Griner, two-time US Olympic champion and eight-time all-star with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury listened with a clean expression as an interpreter translated Decide Anna Sotnikova’s verdict. The choose additionally fined 1 million rubles (about $ 21,000).

US President Joe Biden denounced the decision and sentence as “unacceptable”.

“I ask Russia to launch her instantly so she will be together with her spouse, family members, buddies and teammates,” Biden mentioned, including that he would proceed to work to convey dwelling Griner and Paul Whelan, an imprisoned American. in Russia there’s a conviction for espionage.

Firstly of the session, with virtually sure conviction, an emotional Griner filed a closing enchantment to the court docket for leniency. He mentioned he had no intention of breaking the legislation by carrying hashish oil vaporizer cartridges when she flew to Moscow in February to play basketball within the metropolis of Yekaterinburg.

I need to apologize to my teammates, my membership, my followers and the town of [Yekaterinburg] for my mistake that I made and for the embarrassment I brought on them, “Griner mentioned, voice cracked.” I additionally need to apologize to my mother and father, my brothers, the Phoenix Mercury group at dwelling, the unbelievable WNBA girls, and my superb partner at dwelling. “

Griner, background middle, hears the decision from behind bars. (Evgenia Novozhenina / Pool picture by way of AP)

Consideration will now flip to the potential for a high-risk prisoner trade that was proposed final week by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to his Russian counterpart.

Griner mentioned he made “an trustworthy mistake” in bringing the vape cartridges to Russia, including, “I hope your sentence does not finish my life.”

Griner mentioned Yekaterinburg, a metropolis east of the Ural Mountains, had turn out to be his “second dwelling”.

“I had no concept that the group, the cities, the followers, my teammates would make an enormous impression on me within the 6 and a half years I spent right here,” he mentioned. “I vividly bear in mind popping out of the gymnasium and all of the little women who have been within the stands there ready for me, and that is what stored me coming again right here.”

Prosecutor Nikolai Vlasenko insisted that Griner intentionally packed the hashish oil.

Griner’s attorneys tried to bolster his declare that he had no felony intent and that the containers ended up in his baggage by mistake. They introduced witnesses to the character from the Yekaterinburg group she performs for within the low season of the WNBA and wrote the testimony of a health care provider who claimed to have prescribed hashish for the remedy of ache resulting from accidents suffered in her profession in basketball. .

WATCH | US Reveals Strikes To Carry Jailed Basketball Participant Residence:

The White Home provides Russia a deal to free basketball star Brittney Griner

The Biden administration says it has made a “substantial supply” to convey again two American inmates from Russia, together with basketball star Brittney Griner.

Her legal professional, Maria Blagovolina, mentioned Griner solely used hashish in Arizona, the place medical marijuana is authorized.

He identified that Griner was packing up shortly after a grueling flight and affected by the aftermath of COVID-19. Blagovolina additionally identified that the hashish evaluation present in Griner’s possession was flawed and violated authorized procedures.

Blagovolina requested the court docket to acquit Griner, noting that he had no felony file and hailing his position within the “growth of Russian basketball”.

One other protection legal professional, Alexander Boykov, emphasised Griner’s position in main his Yekaterinburg group to win extra championships, noting that he was liked and admired by his teammates. He instructed the choose {that a} conviction would undermine Russia’s efforts to develop nationwide sports activities and make Moscow’s name to depoliticize the game appear superficial.

Boykov added that even after her arrest, Griner gained the sympathy of each her guards and inmates, who supported her by shouting, “Brittney, every little thing will probably be advantageous!” when she took walks in jail.

Doable trade of prisoners

Earlier than her trial started in July, the US State Division designated her as “wrongfully detained”, shifting her case underneath the supervision of her particular presidential envoy for hostage affairs, successfully the chief hostage negotiator of the federal government.

Then final week, in a rare transfer, Blinken spoke with Russian International Minister Sergey Lavrov, urging him to just accept a deal underneath which Griner and Paul Whelan, one other jailed American, could be launched.

The Lavrov-Blinken enchantment marked the very best recognized contact between Washington and Moscow since Russia despatched troops to Ukraine greater than 5 months in the past. Direct involvement in Griner runs counter to US efforts to isolate the Kremlin.

Folks aware of the proposal say it plans to swap Griner and Whelan for infamous arms seller Viktor Bout, who’s serving a jail sentence in the US. He underlines the general public stress the White Home has confronted to safe Griner’s launch.

White Home Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre mentioned on Monday that Russia responded in “dangerous religion” to the US authorities’s supply, a counteroffer that US officers don’t contemplate critical. She refused to elaborate.

Russian officers mocked U.S. statements on the case, saying they present an absence of respect for Russian legislation. They remained poker-faced, urging Washington to debate the problem via “quiet diplomacy with out the discharge of speculative data.”

Calls from the US to convey Griner dwelling

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver have issued a joint assertion calling for Griner’s secure return dwelling.

“Right now’s verdict and sentence is unwarranted and unlucky, however not surprising and Brittney Griner stays unfairly detained. The WNBA and NBA’s dedication to her secure return has not wavered and it’s our hope that we’re near the top of this. course of to lastly convey BG dwelling to the US “.

Elizabeth Rood, the cost d’affaires of the American embassy, ​​witnessed the trial within the Moscow suburb of Khimki, the place the airport is positioned, and mentioned that American officers are intently monitoring her case, together with these of all US residents detained or in jail in Russia.

On the ESPY Awards final month, footballer Megan Rapinoe known as Griner “a political prisoner” and tennis nice Billie Jean King mentioned, “First, take BG dwelling. It’s a must to do it.”

NBA Finals MVP Stephen Curry wore Griner’s jersey underneath his tracksuit on the awards ceremony and urged “your complete international sports activities neighborhood to proceed to stay energized on his behalf. He’s one in all us, the group of athletes on this room tonight and world wide. world. A group that has nothing to do with politics or international battle. “

Griner, a 6-foot-9 middle, has 12 of 15 common season dunks in WNBA historical past and set the one-year blocking file with 129 in 2014. He led the league by scoring twice. She was a two-time Related Press basketball participant of the yr and led Baylor to a 40-0 season and 2012 NCAA title. She was Phoenix’s No. 1 decide within the 2013 draft.

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