Russian court upholds US basketball star Griner’s 9-year sentence

Moscow, Oct 25 (EFE).- A Russian court on Tuesday upheld American basketball player Brittney Griner’s 9-year sentence on drug possession and smuggling charges.

The athlete’s lawyers had urged the Krasnogorsk court, in the Moscow region, to reduce the sentence but in a statement ahead of the hearing said the player did not “not expect any miracles to happen.”

The 32 year-old WNBA star took part in Tuesday’s proceedings via a video link from the detention center where she is being held.

Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February — just a week before Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine — where she was accused of attempting to smuggle a vape pen loaded with less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.

She pleaded guilty to the charges alleging there was no malicious intent given US doctors had recommended she use cannabis to help with knee pain.

The judge did not head to her arguments, despite the fact she never used cannabis as an analgesic while competing and the testimonies defending her actions from her Russian teammates.

In early August, Griner was handed a nine year prison sentence for drug charges.

The severe sentence sparked the outrage of US president Joe Biden, who demanded her immediate release, and of the American basketball community, which has supported the star throughout the ordeal.

Griner has been in pretrial detention since she was convicted. She shares a cell with two other women and has the right to walk one hour a day and shower twice a week, according to her lawyers.

Rumors over a possible prisoner swap have surfaced in recent months.

US mediator Bill Richardson even traveled to Russia in September to allegedly finalize the details of the exchange.

Washington was willing to exchange Griner and marine Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16 year on espionage charges, for the “merchant of death” Victor But, who is serving 25 years for arms trafficking in a US prison, but so far a deal is yet to be cemented.

A meeting between Biden and Russian president Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit in Indonesia could untangle the mess, according to Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s adviser for international affairs, who added, however, that “it is not the main problem that concerns us (Russia).”

So for now, Griner’s future is up in the air. EFE


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