Russian prosecutors call for 9.5 year sentence for Griner
Moscow, Aug 4 (EFE).- Russian prosecutors on Thursday demanded US basketball star Brittney Griner be sentenced to nine and a half years in prison.
Griner, 31, was arrested in February for drug possession and smuggling after customs officials at Moscow airport found cannabis oil in her luggage.
“The prosecution considers that Brittney Griner’s guilt has been fully proven,” said prosecutor Nikolai Vlasenko at a Moscow court.
Under Russian law, drug smuggling can carry a maximum of 10 years in prison.
The prosecution also asked the Olympic and world champion, who plays for UMMC Ekaterinburg, to pay a fine of one million rubles (more than $16,000).
Griner’s defense team called for her to be acquitted or, failing that, the lowest possible prison sentence.
Ahead of the verdict which is expected later on Thursday, Griner, who pleaded guilty to the charges last month, read an emotional statement to the court in which she asked for leniency.
“I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here,” Griner said.
“I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here. I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope that that is far from this courtroom,” she said.
“I want to say again that I had no intent on breaking any Russian laws. I had no intent. I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime.”
The US government believes that the basketball player’s detention for crossing the border with cannabis oil was “wrongful” and is demanding her immediate release, as are many NBA and WNBA stars.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week proposed to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, the exchange of Griner and Paul Whelan, sentenced to 16 years for espionage, for the so-called “merchant of death” Victor Bout, who is serving 25 years in a US prison on weapons trafficking charges.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied that the criminal proceedings against the basketball player have political overtones.
Russia and the US recently exchanged the American student Trevor Reed, sentenced to nine years in prison for resisting arrest, for the Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, sentenced in the US to 20 years for drug smuggling. EFE