NBA basketball player Britney Griner, who was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal cannabis possession, before a court hearing in Khimki, a suburb of Moscow, in August. , awaiting the verdict in the defendant’s cage. April 4, 2022.
Evgenia Novozhenina | Photo AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – A Russian court on Thursday convicted Britney Griner on drug charges and sentenced her to nine years in prison.
The court also fined Griner one million rubles ($16,301).
Griner, 31, who plays professional basketball in Russia during the WNBA offseason, was arrested at a Russian airport in February for smuggling vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.
Under Russian law, this charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. In her closing arguments, Russian prosecutors asked the court to impose her nine and a half years in prison and fine her one million rubles.
Griner asked the court for leniency earlier Thursday.
“I didn’t mean to hurt anyone,” Griner said after closing arguments, according to NBC News. was.”
Her lawyer had previously said that Griner only used cannabis for medical purposes and had never used it while in Russia.
Last month, Griner pleaded guilty but said he unintentionally stuffed a canister of cannabis in his suitcase because he was in a hurry.
The court’s decision comes a week after the Biden administration confirmed it. made an offer to the Russian government Release of Greiner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.In a statement Thursday, the president Joe Biden He called the prison sentence “unacceptable” and called for Griner’s immediate release.
“This is unacceptable. I urge Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates,” Biden said in a statement.
“My administration will continue to work vigorously and will pursue all means to bring Britney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible,” the president added.
Last week, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told reporters that the United States “considered a substantive proposal several weeks ago” for the release of Griner and Whelan. The top US diplomat also said he would discuss the proposal with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Kremlin invades Ukraine.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at a White House press conference, “This is a delicate job. We made a proposal. I urge the Russians to take a positive approach to the proposal so that they can.”
“I think that detail is best left between us and our Russian counterparts,” Kirby said.
US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner stands in her defendant’s cage before a hearing at the Khimki court outside Moscow on July 26, 2022.
Alexander Zemlyanichenko | AFP | Getty Images
Just days before she pleaded guilty last month, Griner wrote to Biden asking for his direct help in her case.
“I’m sitting here in a Russian prison with only my thoughts, without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jerseys, or other achievements. I’m afraid I’ll be here forever.” I’m afraid ” 5 letters.
“I know you have a lot to deal with, but please remember me and the other American internees. Do everything you can to get us back home. Please,” Griner wrote.
After receiving the letter, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called the WNBA star’s wife, Sherrel Griner. Biden also wrote a response to Griner handed in Moscow by US diplomats.
Mr. Biden reassured his wife that he was working to secure Mr. Griner’s release as soon as possible, according to a transcript of the call read out by the White House. He also said by phone that he was working on the release of Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence in Russia.
Whelan was arrested in 2018 on charges of U.S. espionage. Whelan was in Russia to attend his wedding when he was arrested, said his brother David Whelan.
Last month, Biden signed an executive order expanding the tools available to the administration to prevent hostage-taking and the unlawful detention of Americans.
Known as the “Executive Order”Step up efforts to repatriate hostages and wrongfully detained U.S. citizens,” approves the imposition of financial sanctions and visa bans on those involved in taking hostages.
A senior Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity last month, said: “This executive order reflects the administration’s commitment not only to this issue in general, but to the families of the bereaved in particular, and that the government has regularly engaged with them. I have,” he said. To share details about a new executive order.
In April, Russia agreed to release former US Marine Trevor Reed In a prisoner of war exchange with the United States.
Reid was detained by authorities in 2019 after being charged with assaulting a Russian police officer. After that, she was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison. Reed and his family have maintained his innocence, saying that the U.S. government wrongfully imprisoned him.
For Reid’s release, Biden agreed to release Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who is serving 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the United States.