NewsBreaking news: Basketball player Brittney Griner is sentenced to...

Breaking news: Basketball player Brittney Griner is sentenced to 9 years in prison in Russia

JIMKI, Russia – A Russian court on Thursday sentenced American basketball player Brittney Griner to nine years in prison for drug trafficking, a harsh sentence described as “unacceptable” by President Joe Biden and which opens the door to a possible prisoner exchange. between Russia and the United States.

Arrested in February in Moscow, shortly before the Russian offensive in Ukraine, with a vaporizer containing cannabis-based liquid, the double Olympic champion became one more element in the geopolitical crisis between Russia and the United States.

Her trial has accelerated in recent days, while the two countries negotiate a prisoner exchange in which the player could enter.

“The court found the defendant guilty” of illegal possession and drug trafficking, Judge Anna Sotnikova said, according to an AFP journalist present at the Khimki court near Moscow.

As a result, the basketball player was sentenced to “nine years in prison in a penal colony and a fine of one million rubles,” about 16,000 euros or $16,350 at current exchange rates, he added.

“It is unacceptable and I ask Russia to release him immediately so that he can return to his wife, family and teammates,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement after the verdict was announced.

Griner’s lawyers announced for their part the intention to appeal a sentence that they consider “totally absurd”.

The player listened to the judge’s ruling with her head lowered, locked in the compartment intended for the accused in the courtroom.

for a vaporizer

“I made a mistake without bad faith and I hope that the verdict does not end my life here,” Griner had asked in his last speech before the announcement of the court’s decision.

Brittney Griner, 31 years old and 2.06 meters tall, is considered one of the best basketball players in the world.

Since the beginning of the trial, she has been concentrated, answering the court’s questions calmly and precisely.

On Thursday, before the start of the hearing, she showed reporters a photo of herself surrounded by her basketball teammates in Russia.

The member of the Phoenix Mercury had traveled to Russia to play there in the offseason, a common practice for WNBA basketball players, who often get more resources abroad than in the United States.

She was detained at the airport with cannabis-based vape liquid. He acknowledged having been in possession of that substance, stating however that he brought it to Russia by mistake.

Above all, he rejected any type of drug trafficking, emphasizing that the small amount of that substance was only for his personal consumption, for analgesic purposes for his chronic pain.

“I never meant to harm anyone, I never intended to put the Russian population in danger or break the law of this place,” Griner said Thursday.

The prosecutor assured for his part that the player had tried to “hide” that cannabis-based liquid from the airport customs agents.

The player’s lawyers had requested her acquittal.

Russian arms dealer

The conviction of the basketball player could influence a possible exchange of prisoners.

Last week, the head of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken, and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov had their first talks since the start of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine.

Blinken said he had asked his counterpart to accept “the consistent offer” from Washington to Moscow to obtain the release of Griner and another American detained in Russia, Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence for espionage.

According to several US media, it would be about exchanging a famous Russian arms dealer arrested in the United States, Viktor Bout, in exchange for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.

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