A Russian court on Thursday convicted American basketball star Britney Griner on drug charges and sentenced her to nine years in prison.
Griner, who has been in custody since February, appeared in court earlier in the day to appeal for leniency as her lawyers and prosecutors made closing arguments.
Russian prosecutors have asked the judge presiding over the case to sentence Griner to nine and a half years in prison.
A conviction, handed down around 11 a.m. on the east coast of the United States, was widely anticipated, with Griner’s fate “subject to diplomatic negotiations between Russia and the United States.” that’s why new york times put it.
Recently, Russian and U.S. officials have been discussing a possible prisoner exchange involving Griner and Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States.
Last week, the Biden administration offered Russia the release of Americans Bout, Griner and Paul Whelan, who have been detained in Russia on espionage charges since 2018.
Earlier this week, reported by Bloomberg Russia rejected the offer and instead backed a deal that secured the release of two Russian prisoners of war.
new york times report On Thursday, “Moscow officials said the verdict in her trial was a necessary prerequisite for a possible exchange.”
Griner, the star of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, returned to Russia on February 17 as he was finishing his season with UMMC Yekaterinburg, where he plays in the WNBA offseason, when authorities found cannabis oil in his luggage. did. She was arrested and faced drug charges that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Her detention, which took place just days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, added new tension in the geopolitical strife between Moscow and the West. was reclassified as
Griner pleaded guilty last month but insisted she had no intention of breaking the law.
“I would like to apologize to my teammates, the club, the fans and the (Yekaterinburg) city for the mistakes I have made and the shame they have caused,” Griner said. Associated Press, noted that her voice was “cracking.” “I also want to apologize to her parents, her siblings, the Phoenix Mercury Organization in her hometown, the amazing women of the WNBA, and her amazing spouse back home.”
Griner also spoke warmly about his experience playing for Yekaterinburg since 2014.
“I never thought that during the six and a half years I spent here, the team, the city, the fans and my teammates would make such a great impression on me,” she said. According to Associated Press. “I vividly remember coming out of the gym and the little girls in the stands waiting for me. That’s why I keep coming back here.”
President Joe Biden faces mounting pressure to release Griner.
Last month, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Griner’s wife, Sherrell, after Griner sent the president a handwritten letter.
“Sitting in a Russian prison, my wife, my family, my friends, my Olympic jersey, or my achievements are not protected, I’m sitting here with only my thoughts, so I’ll be here forever.” I’m afraid”. Biden.
“I know you’re dealing with a lot, but please remember me and the other American detainees,” Griner continued. “Do everything you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I trust you. I miss my wife I miss my family I miss my teammates I die knowing they are in so much pain right now Bring me home I am grateful for what you can do at this moment to bring me home.”