The Russian justice rejected the appeal of the American basketball player Brittney Griner, sentenced to nine years in prison for alleged cannabis trafficking, in a context of strong tension between Moscow and Washington.
The court decided to “leave unchanged” the August ruling against the American basketball player, Judge Elena Vorontsova said. Griner, detained since February, was sentenced on August 4 after police found cannabis oil vape cartridges in his luggage at Moscow airport.
Griner is a star in the WNBA, was elected to the All-Star game eight times and won two Olympic golds. His case directly involved President Joe Biden, who called for his release.
“I really hope that the court adjusts this verdict, because this was very, very stressful and very traumatizing for my mental and psychological state,” said the player, who participated in the hearing by video call, according to an AFP journalist.
Dressed in a red and black checkered shirt, Brittney Griner, 32, spoke of the sadness of being so far away from her family and not being able to talk to them. Griner stated that he “does not understand” the seriousness of his sentence, “while others are sentenced to much less (than her) for much more serious crimes.”
One of his lawyers, Alexander Boykov, asked the court to “reflect” on the possibility of ordering a “dismissal” and acquitting his client. The United States, meanwhile, called the process opened against Griner a “farce” and demanded his immediate release.
“President [Joe] Biden was very clear about the fact that Brittney must be released immediately,” said White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, lamenting that the young woman remains “wrongly imprisoned, under unacceptable circumstances.”
The arrest in February
Griner was arrested in February in the Russian capital when she was carrying vape cartridges with a small amount of cannabis oil. She acknowledged that she was carrying this substance with her, but that she did it accidentally and that she used it legally in the United States for pain.
The player went to Russia to play out of the American season, a common practice among WNBA players, the American women’s basketball league, who earn more money abroad.
League commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the Russian court’s decision was “not unexpected and [que] Brittney Griner is still wrongfully detained.” “It is time for this case to come to an end and for BG to come home,” he added.
The case of this woman took on a geopolitical dimension in a context of crisis between Moscow and Washington due to the Russian offensive in Ukraine. Others of his compatriots are imprisoned in Russia, and the United States also wants to obtain their release.
Washington stated several times that it made a “considerable offer” for two of its citizens detained in Russia, Brittney Griner and a former soldier, Paul Whelan, to be released.
According to Russian diplomatic sources, it would be possible to exchange Brittney Griner for a Russian arms dealer detained in the United States, Victor But.
But was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States.
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Brittney Griner: confirm the sentence of 9 years against the star of women’s basketball