American women’s basketball star Brittney Griner, detained in Russia, was sentenced on Thursday, August 4, to nine years in prison for drug possession and trafficking, announced the court in Khimki, near Moscow. This is almost the maximum possible punishment for this crime, which is set at ten years in prison. Brittney Griner will appeal this decision “no sense”informed his lawyers of the process.
“The court found the accused guilty” illegal possession and sale of a “Significant number” drugs, said Judge Anna Sotnikova. A legacy of the Soviet Union, most prison sentences in Russia are served in prison camps located sometimes far from everything. Prison work, usually in sewing or furniture-making workshops, is often compulsory there.
The sentence was less than the nine-and-a-half-year prison term sought by the prosecutor, who also sought a fine. “This is unacceptable and I call on Russia to release him immediately so he can be reunited with his wife, relatives and teammates”urged by US President Joe Biden in a statement.
Quit cannabis-based vaping liquid
The North American Women’s Professional Basketball League (WNBA) criticized, instead, a condemnation “unreasonable and regretful”. “The judgment (…) predictably, and Brittney remains wrongly detained. The WNBA’s commitment to her safe return is unwavering and we hope the end of this process to bring Brittney Griner back to the United States for good is near.the body wrote the joint statement of the NBA.
The Phoenix Mercury basketball player came to Russia to play during the American offseason, a common practice for WNBA players, who often earn more money abroad than in the United States. He was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport with cannabis-based vaping liquid.
He admitted that he had this substance, but claimed that it had been brought to Russia by mistake. Above all, he denied any traffic, emphasizing that this small amount of the substance was only for his personal consumption, for analgesic purposes, because he suffered from chronic pain, like many athletes . The prosecutor assured him that he was trying on purpose “hiding” cannabis-based liquid to customs officials.
During the hearing, the basketball player admitted that he did “a real mistake”added: “I hope your decision does not end my life. » At age 31, Griner is considered one of the best basketball players in the world. Since the start of the trial, he has appeared focused, answering the court’s questions calmly and accurately.
Exchange of prisoners
Thursday, he was brought to court again in handcuffs, wearing a gray t-shirt, before being placed in a cage with bars reserved for defendants. Before the hearing began, he held up to reporters a photo of himself surrounded by his Russian basketball teammates.
Since his arrest in February, a few days before the Russian offensive in Ukraine, the double Olympic champion has been immersed 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. “important” in Moscow.
On Friday, the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, had their first talks since the start of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine. Mr. Blinken says he pressured his counterpart to accept Washington’s offer to Moscow to secure the release of Brittney Griner and another American detained in Russia, Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence for spy
The basketball player’s conviction opens the way for a possible prisoner exchange. The White House again “encouraged” on Thursday Russia to accept it “serious offer”. “We have made a significant offer to bring him and Paul Whelan home. We urge Russia to accept this offer.stated the spokesperson of the presidency, Karine Jean-Pierre, criticizing the “wrongful detention” of the female basketball star.
According to some American media, it could be a question of exchanging a famous Russian arms dealer imprisoned in the United States, Viktor Bout, against Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. Mr. Bout, arrested in Thailand in 2008 and serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States, was nicknamed “dealer of death”. His extraordinary journey is one of the inspirations for the film Lord of War, where Nicolas Cage plays a most cynical arms dealer.