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US basketball player Brittney Griner sentenced to nine years in Russian jail over drug charges

Brittney Griner, an American basketball player, was sentenced by a Russian judge to nine years imprisonment for drug possession.

President Joe Biden called for her immediate release and described the sentence as unacceptable.

Judge Anna Sotnikova stated that Griner’s time in custody from her February arrest would count towards the sentence.

Griner was tense and unmoved when Griner received her sentence. She listened intently to the verdict and stared blankly at the judge as she handed her sentence to Griner (PS13.435).

Image Brittney griner is seen being taken out of the courtroom, Russia

In a statement, Mr Biden stated that Brittney Griner, an American citizen, was sentenced to prison today. This is yet another reminder of what the rest of the world knew: Brittney is being held in Russia.

“It is unacceptable. I appeal to Russia to immediately release her so that she can be with her husband, her loved ones, and her friends and teammates.”

After police found cannabis oil vape cartridges in her luggage, the 31-year old was taken into custody at Moscow Airport on 17 February.

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She pleaded guilty and Griner stated to the court that she did not intend to violate the law when she flew from the United States to play basketball in Yekaterinburg.

Image: Griner was part the 2012 NCAA Women’s Basketball champions. Pic: AP

Griner screamed, “I would like to apologize to my teammates and my club, my supporters and the city (Yekaterinburg), for the mistake that I made”

“I also apologize to my parents, my siblings and the Phoenix Mercury organisation back home, as well as my husband, my incredible spouse, and the amazing women from the WNBA.

“I made an honest error and I hope your decision doesn’t cause me to lose my life.”

The judge summarized the evidence and presented her findings. She stated that the Phoenix Mercury player had illegally taken drugs into Russia.

Image Griner cut a bit of the net after the Baylor Bears beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Denver in 2012

Griner’s lawyer stated that they would appeal the sentence and added that the court had ignored the evidence they had submitted as well as their guilty plea.

They stated that they were “disappointed” by the verdict.

Russian prosecutor demanded that the two-time Olympic gold medallist be sentenced to nine years imprisonment.

Griner stated, “I love my family”, and was taken out of court in handcuffs.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the sentence “compounds her injustice of herwrongful detention”. The White House spokesperson for national security added that Mr Blinken would like to talk to Sergei Lavrov.

He has previously proposed a high-stakes prisoner exchange that could see Griner or Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia for espionage, be released.

Russian officials criticized US statements regarding the case and said that a possible deal should only be reached through “quiet diplomacy” without releasing speculative information.

The sentencing was described by the NBA and WNBA as “unjustified, unfortunate, but not surprising”.

“The WNBA’s and NBA’s commitments to her safe return have not wavered and it is our hope we are nearing the end of the process of finally bringing BG back to the United States,” said the joint statement of the two basketball leagues.


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