American basketball player Brittney Griner was sentenced in Russia to 9 years in prison

Since his arrest at a Moscow airport, a few days before Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, the double Olympic champion has been plunged into the geopolitical crisis between Russia and the United States.

INTERNATIONAL – Imprisoned since February in Russia, the American star of female basketball Brittney Griner was sentenced, on Thursday August 4, to 9 years of imprisonment in a penal colony and a fine of one million rubles (about 16,000 euros ) in the Russian court. for drug trafficking, following his arrest with a vaporizer containing liquid cannabis. This heavy sentence is described as“unacceptable” by US President Joe Biden, paving the way for a possible exchange of prisoners between Moscow and Washington.

“The court found the accused guilty” illegal possession and sale of a “Significant number” drugs, said judge Anna Sotnikova, according to an AFP reporter present at the court in Khimki, near Moscow. The 31-year-old denied that there was smuggling. Criticism a “The verdict is absolutely insane”the player’s lawyers announced in a press release their intention to do so “no doubt call” of conviction. The player listened to the judge’s statement with his face down, locked in the cage reserved for the accused in the court.

A “result” offer from Washington for his release

After the verdict was announced, US President Joe Biden ruled “unacceptable” the athlete’s conviction. “I call on Russia to release him immediately so he can be reunited with his wife, relatives and teammates”, he urged in a statement. The American leader promised to work “tireless” and on “examining all possible avenues” to work for his freedom.

Arrested in February in Moscow, before Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, the double Olympic champion was caught up in the geopolitical crisis between Russia and the United States. His trial has been accelerated in recent days as the two countries negotiate a prisoner swap that the player could be part of, with Washington claiming to have recently made an offer. “fruit” in Moscow. According to some American media, it could be a question of exchanging a famous Russian arms dealer imprisoned in the United States, Viktor Bout, for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia.

“I made a mistake in good faith and I hope the judgment does not end my life here”, pleaded with Brittney Griner during her final speech before the court’s announcement of the decision. Since the start of the trial, the young woman, who is considered one of the best basketball players in the world, has appeared focused, answering the court’s questions calmly and accurately. Thursday, before the hearing began, he held up to reporters a photo of himself surrounded by his Russian basketball teammates.

“I never meant to hurt anyone”

The Phoenix Mercury player came to Russia to play during the American offseason, a common practice for WNBA basketball players who often earn more money abroad than in the United States. He was arrested at the airport with cannabis vaping liquid. He admitted that he had obtained this substance, even claiming that it had been brought to Russia by mistake.

Above all, he denied any trafficking, stressing that this small amount of substance was only for his personal consumption, for analgesic purposes, because he suffered from chronic pain. “I never intended to harm anyone, I never intended to endanger the Russian population, or break the law here”, Brittney Griner said Thursday. The prosecutor assured him that he was trying on purpose “hiding” cannabis-based liquid to customs officers at the airport.

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