American Olympic Medallist Brittney Griner jailed for Nine Years
A Russian court has sentenced US basketball star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison on drug charges.
On Thursday, Judge Anna Sotnikova said she understood that Ms Griner had already spent a long time in detention.
The court found Ms Griner guilty of smuggling and possessing “a significant amount of narcotics”, Judge Anna Sotnikova said in the town of Khimki, outside Moscow. Ms Griner was also fined one million rubles ($16,300).
The court in Moscow convicted Ms Griner of smuggling and possessing narcotics. The prosecution had sought a nine-and-a-half year jail term.
U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the verdict and pushed for Ms Griner's release.
“My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible,” Mr Biden said in a statement.
Ms Griner was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on February 17 when cartridges containing cannabis oil for vaping were found in her luggage; her arrest became known on March 5. She has been held since then on drug smuggling charges punishable by up to 10 years
The statement said drug-sniffing dogs in the airport’s customs area showed the possible presence of narcotic drugs in the player’s carry-on baggage following her arrival on a flight from New York. A search of the luggage revealed the cartridges, a criminal violation under Russian law with a sentence of five to 10 years.
In July, Ms Griner admitted to bringing cannabis into the country, pleading guilty to the charges leveled against her. However, she maintained that she had packed in a hurry and did not intend to break the law.
Ms Griner has now been held in Russian custody for about five months. Her detention has been shifted multiple times and her requests to be detained at home were denied. U.S. State Department officials have classified Griner as “wrongfully detained,” and dozens of human and civil rights organizations have called for Biden to negotiate her release.