Words: Alastair James; pictures: Wiki Commons
The US basketball player, Brittney Griner, has been sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison on drug charges after pleading guilty.
Sentenced on Thursday (4 August) Griner, 31, has also been ordered to pay a one million rouble (£13,430) fine.
The Olympic athlete said she hadn’t deliberately broken the law and her legal team is appealing the sentence. As reported by Sky News, she said: “I hope in your ruling it does not end my life.”
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She was arrested in February, where, as reported by the BBC, vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage.
In a statement the US President, Joe Biden, denounced the verdict as “unacceptable”. He also said: “Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney.”
Continuing he called on Russia to “release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates,” before adding, “My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”
Statement by President Joe Biden on the Sentencing of Wrongfully Detained American Brittney Griner: https://t.co/LaGPbGwNFU
— Karine Jean-Pierre (@PressSec) August 4, 2022
The US and Russia have discussed a prisoner swap – Griner for a Russian arms trafficker called Viktor Bout aka ‘the Merchant of Death’. It’s thought this could help reduce Griner’s sentence at least.
As reported by the BBC, the judge in Khimki, outside Russia, noted when reading Griner’s sentence that the basketball player had already spent some time in detention.
In July, Griner wrote an emotional plea to President Biden for help. In it, Brittney feared she may never return home.
“I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore,” she wrote, declaring she desperately misses her wife, family, and teammates.
Griner also said she had only had “sporadic written communication” with her family since her arrest.
The Attitude September/October issue is out now.