US’ Girls’s Nationwide Basketball Affiliation (NBA) basketball participant Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with unlawful possession of hashish, waits for the decision inside a defendants’ cage earlier than a courtroom listening to in Khimki exterior Moscow, on August 4, 2022.
Evgenia Novozhenina | AFP | Getty Pictures
WASHINGTON – A Russian courtroom on Thursday discovered Brittney Griner responsible of drug costs and sentenced her to 9 years in jail, because the U.S. authorities scrambles to safe the WNBA star’s launch.
The courtroom additionally fined Griner 1 million rubles ($16,301).
The 31-year-old Griner, who performs skilled basketball in Russia in the course of the WNBA offseason, was arrested in February at a Russian airport on accusations that she was smuggling vape cartridges with hashish oil.
Below Russian regulation, the cost carried a penalty of as much as 10 years in jail. Throughout closing arguments, Russian prosecutors requested the courtroom to condemn her to 9½ years in jail and difficulty the 1 million ruble high quality.
Griner requested the courtroom for leniency earlier Thursday.
“I by no means meant to harm anyone,” Griner stated following closing arguments, in keeping with NBC Information. “I by no means meant to place in jeopardy the Russian inhabitants. I by no means meant to interrupt any legal guidelines right here.”
Her attorneys have beforehand stated Griner solely makes use of hashish medically and has by no means used it whereas in Russia.
Final month, Griner pleaded responsible to the fees however stated she had unintentionally packed the hashish canisters in her suitcase as a result of she was in a rush.
The courtroom’s resolution comes one week after the Biden administration confirmed it made an offer to the Russian government for the discharge of Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan. In an announcement Thursday, President Joe Biden referred to as the jail sentence “unacceptable” and referred to as for Griner’s rapid launch.
“It is unacceptable and I name on Russia to launch her instantly so she may be along with her spouse, family members, buddies, and teammates,” Biden wrote in an announcement.
“My administration will proceed to work tirelessly and pursue each potential avenue to deliver Brittney and Paul Whelan residence safely as quickly as potential,” the president added.
Final week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken advised reporters that the U.S. “put a considerable proposal on the desk weeks in the past” for Griner and Whelan’s launch. The highest U.S. diplomat additionally stated he would talk about the provide with Russian International Minister Sergey Lavrov, in what can be the primary recognized dialog between the 2 since the Kremlin invaded Ukraine.
“That is delicate work,” Nationwide Safety Council spokesperson John Kirby advised reporters throughout a White Home press briefing. “We have made a proposal, and we urge the Russians to maneuver positively on that proposal so we are able to get these two people residence.”
“The main points of it, I believe are greatest left between us and our Russian counterparts,” Kirby stated.
US WNBA basketball famous person Brittney Griner stands inside a defendants’ cage earlier than a listening to on the Khimki Courtroom, exterior Moscow on July 26, 2022.
Alexander Zemlianichenko | AFP | Getty Pictures
Days earlier than she pleaded responsible final month, Griner penned a letter to Biden asking for his direct assist along with her case.
“I sit right here in a Russian jail, alone with my ideas and with out the safety of my spouse, household, buddies, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I am terrified I could be right here endlessly,” the skilled athlete wrote in a July 5 letter.
“I notice you might be coping with a lot, however please remember about me and … different American detainees. Please do all you may to deliver us residence,” Griner wrote.
After receiving the letter, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris referred to as the WNBA star’s spouse, Cherelle Griner. Biden additionally wrote a response to Griner that U.S. diplomats hand-delivered in Moscow.
Biden reassured her spouse that he’s working to safe Griner’s launch as quickly as potential, in keeping with a White Home readout of the decision. He additionally stated on the decision that he’s working to launch Whelan, who’s serving a 16-year sentence in Russia.
Whelan was arrested in 2018 on costs of performing as a spy for the US. On the time he was arrested, Whelan was visiting Russia to attend a marriage, in keeping with his brother, David Whelan.
Final month, Biden signed an government order that can broaden the administration’s obtainable instruments to discourage hostage-taking and the wrongful detention of U.S. nationals.
The manager order, referred to as “Bolstering Efforts to Bring Hostages and Wrongfully Detained United States Nationals Home,” will authorize the imposition of monetary sanctions and visa bans on folks concerned in hostage-taking.
“This government order displays the administration’s dedication not simply to the problems usually however to the households particularly, and it has been knowledgeable by the federal government’s common engagements with them,” stated a senior Biden administration official final month, who spoke on situation of anonymity so as to share particulars concerning the new government order.
In April, Russia agreed to launch former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed in a prisoner exchange with the United States.
Reed was accused of assaulting a Russian police officer and detained by authorities there in 2019. He was later sentenced to 9 years in a Russian jail. Reed and his household have maintained his innocence, and the U.S. authorities described him as unjustly imprisoned.
For Reed’s launch, Biden agreed to free Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal jail sentence for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US.