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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Brittney Griner in Russia sentenced to 9 years in prison for drug smuggling


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American basketball star Brittney Griner has been sentenced in Russia to 9 years in prison for drug smuggling. She will also be fined 1 million rubles (about 16,000 euros). She has been detained in Moscow since February for carrying cannabis oil in e-cigarette refills.

The 31-year-old athlete was handcuffed and led to the courtroom, where the prosecutor said she had deliberately taken the cannabis oil with her. Griner himself also spoke and said emotionally that it was a mistake. She uses the oil in her home country for medicinal reasons and was unaware that she was breaking a law in Russia. “It was my mistake, but I didn’t plan this crime. I never wanted to harm anyone or break the law. I hope you don’t end my life here with a conviction,” said the basketball star.

Griner’s legal team hoped for the mildest punishment because they said they could not know how strict the law is in Russia. Griner also carried less than 1 gram and hoped her significance to the sport could play a role in a lenient sentence. Griner flew to Moscow in February to play for the Russian team UMMC Yekaterinburg. She is one of the best basketball players in the world and has won gold twice in the Olympic Cities.

US President Biden has since responded to the verdict. He says he is disappointed. “Russia is wrongly holding Brittney. This is unacceptable and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, family, friends and teammates.”

It is possible that the basketball star will be used in a prison swap between Russia and the US. For example, the US hopes to exchange Griner and ex-Marine Paul Whelan, another American detained in Russia, for arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is detained in the US.

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