Russian Court Sentences Brittney Griner to Nine Years in Prison

US basketball star Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine years in prison by a Russian court.

On Thursday, a court near Moscow convicted Griner, 31, of drug smuggling and possession.

The decision came after the double Olympic winner pleaded guilty to possessing at least 1 gram of cannabis oil. However, during closing arguments, she insisted that she had “no intents to break any Russian laws” and made an “honest mistake.”

The prosecution first asked for a prison sentence of nine and a half years. However, the presiding judge said she had given the US national only nine years, as she had spent considerable time in detention.

The basketball star, considered among the world’s best players, was detained at an airport near Moscow when she had traveled to Russia to play club basketball in February. Russian police officers found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

Soon after, Russia launched an offensive against Ukraine – a move that drew West strict sanctions on the Kremlin and related politicians. Griner’s case has become the subject of high-profile diplomacy between the two nations.

As she walked out of court in handcuffs, the Olympic medalist said she loved her family. Her defense attorney Maria Blagovolina revealed that she was “very upset, very stressed.”

“She’s devastated. She is very upset and she’s honestly quite shocked, so she needs to digest what happened today,” Blagovolina stated.

“When we saw Brittney on Tuesday, we told her, ‘See you on Thursday’. She said, ‘See you on doomsday’. So it looks like she was right,” the attorney added.

Griner has not yet been able to speak to her wife Cherelle or other friends or family since the ruling, but she has permission to do so. The call is expected to be set up next week.

The basketball player’s defense team said it would appeal the sentence.

After the court’s ruling, US President Joe Biden said the outcome had been “unacceptable.” Also, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated: “Russia, and any country engaging in wrongful detention, represents a threat to the safety of everyone traveling, working, and living abroad.”

Moscow and Washington have been talking about a prospective prisoner swap that could include the basketball player. Therefore, it is uncertain how long she will actually be imprisoned.

According to US media reports, the US may release imprisoned Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, also known as The Merchant of Death, as part of the agreement to free Griner.