WNBA star, Brittney Griner was sentenced to 9 years in Russian jail Thursday, August 4, after being convicted on drug prices by a Moscow courtroom.
Griner pleaded responsible final month after a prolonged trial that highlighted the strained relationship between the US and Russia because the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.
After closing arguments on Thursday, prosecutors requested a sentence of 9 1/2 years. In a remaining request for leniency, an emotional Griner apologized and repeated that she had by no means supposed to interrupt any Russian legal guidelines, however that she had made “an sincere mistake.”
Solely hours later, Decide Anna Sotnikova returned to announce her conviction for drug possession and smuggling. Griner, 31, can even must pay a effective of 1 million rubles ($16,590), however he has the precise to attraction the choice.
The main focus will now shift to the opportunity of a prisoner swap between Washington and Moscow. Based on NBC Information, US officers don’t count on speedy progress of their efforts to free Griner, however they may proceed to press the difficulty.
“Right now, American citizen Brittney Griner obtained a jail sentence that’s yet another reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” President Joe Biden stated in an announcement issued shortly after the decision was introduced.
“It’s unacceptable, and I name on Russia to launch her instantly so she could be together with her spouse, family members, pals, and teammates. My administration will proceed to work tirelessly and pursue each potential avenue to deliver Brittney and Paul Whelan residence safely as quickly as potential.”
In an announcement to reporters outdoors the courthouse, Griner’s authorized group stated she was “very upset,” and so they have been “very stunned by the decision.”
“The courtroom utterly ignored all of the proof of the protection, and most significantly, the responsible plea,” her attorneys stated in a separate assertion despatched through Telegram.
In addition they said that they intend to file an attraction.
And Griner’s WNBA group, the Phoenix Mercury, expressed optimism that the Biden Administration will safe the basketball star’s freedom.
“Whereas we knew it was by no means the authorized course of that was going to deliver our buddy residence, at this time’s verdict is a sobering milestone within the 168-day nightmare being endured by our sister, BG,” the WNBA franchise stated in an announcement.
“We stay heartbroken for her, as now we have day by day for practically six months. We stay grateful to and assured within the public servants working day by day to return her to her household and us.”
Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February after Russian authorities found vape canisters containing hashish oil in her baggage.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, admitted possession of the canisters. She claimed she unintentionally transported them to Russia whereas packing her baggage in a rush.
The Kremlin has been accused of utilizing Griner as a political pawn, whereas her household and teammates have been placing strain on the Biden administration to safe her launch.
Based on two sources conversant in the matter, the US authorities has proposed that Moscow launch Griner and one other American, Paul Whelan, who’s serving a 16-year sentence for espionage, in change for convicted Russian arms supplier Viktor Bout.
Based on White Home press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to reporters on Monday, Russia responded to the US authorities’s supply with one in all its personal in “unhealthy religion.” “We don’t see it as a critical counteroffer,” she stated.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who spoke together with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, final week the best stage of diplomatic engagement between the 2 nations since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, urged the Kremlin to simply accept the US supply.
The Russians responded by urging the US to keep away from hypothesis and as a substitute pursue “quiet diplomacy.”
Blinken stated in an announcement following the sentencing on Thursday that it “compounds the injustice of her wrongful detention.”
“This step places a highlight on our vital issues with Russia’s authorized system and the Russian authorities’s use of wrongful detentions to advance its personal agenda, utilizing people as political pawns,” he added.
The State Division reclassified Griner as “wrongfully detained” in Could and delegated oversight of her case to its presidential envoy for hostage affairs. Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, has denied that Griner is being held as a hostage.
Final month, Biden spoke with Griner’s spouse, Cherelle Griner. He additionally wrote a letter to Griner after she despatched him a handwritten word pleading for his help in getting her launched.
A rising refrain of voices has urged Washington to do extra to safe Griner’s launch practically 5 months after she was arrested on drug prices.
Griner was led right into a cage contained in the courtroom sporting handcuffs and a grey shirt on Thursday. She displayed a photograph of her teammates from the Russian membership she performed for through the WNBA offseason earlier than the proceedings started.
Prosecutors’ requests for a harsh sentence, in accordance with her lawyer Maria Blagovolina, are “nonsense.” The fees carry a most sentence of ten years in jail.
Her protection group questioned a few of the skilled analyses used within the case and claimed Griner was not given ample interpreter entry throughout her arrest. In addition they emphasised Griner’s quite a few athletic accomplishments, together with her time enjoying in Russia with Ural Mining and Metallurgical Firm Ekaterinburg.
Griner’s attorneys reiterated that she has solely used hashish for medical functions and has by no means used it in Russia. They requested that Griner be acquitted or sentenced as calmly as potential.
As Griner addressed the courtroom she apologized to her followers, household, and teammates for any embarrassment or harm she could have induced them. She referred to as the Russian metropolis of Yekaterinburg, the place she performed, her second residence.
“I by no means meant to harm anyone,” she stated. “I by no means meant to place in jeopardy the Russian inhabitants. I by no means meant to interrupt any legal guidelines right here.