American basketball player sentenced to 9 years by Russian court

Brittney Griner, basketball player for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury Team, has been sentenced to nine years for bringing illegal hashish oil into Russia, by a Moscow court on Thursday.

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In addition to nine years in prison (the prosecution having pushed for 9.5 years), the athlete was slapped with a RUB 1 mln (EUR 16,000) fine.

Prior to the sentence being passed, Ms Griner said in her closing remarks that bringing the vaping cartridges with hashish oil into Russia had been “an honest mistake”.

Ms Griner's defence team announced that they are “disappointed” by the verdict and that they will appeal it. According to Ms Griner’s attorneys, the court had ignored all evidence they had presented as well as Ms Griner's guilty plea.

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US President Joe Biden reacted to the sentencing of Brittney Griner.

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” Mr Biden said in a statement. “It's unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.”

Ms Griner’s arrest for bringing drugs into Russia was not her first run-in with the law.

Back in 2015, Brittney Griner and her future wife, Glory Johnson, were both arrested on charges of assault and disorderly conduct after police were called to a fight between the two in the couple’s home. Both had sustained injuries. Two months later the WNBA suspended both ladies, at that point already married, for seven games each after Ms Griner pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charges. She was also required to complete 26 weeks of domestic violence counselling.