Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine years in prison after being convicted by a Russian court of drug possession and smuggling with criminal intent.
Ms. Griner was also fined 1 million rubles (about $16,300) by the court.
Her defence team slammed the verdict, calling it “absolutely unreasonable”, adding that they “will definitely appeal”, New York Times report.
President Joe Biden issued a statement on the sentencing, saying Ms Greener “was sentenced to prison, which is yet another reminder of what the world already knows: Russia wrongly detained Britney”.
“This is unacceptable and I call on Russia to release her immediately so that she can be with his wife, family, friends and teammates. My government will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible way to get Britney and Paul Whelan goes home safely as soon as possible,” he added.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said “Ms Greener was unlawfully detained, but beyond that I can’t really comment”.
Prosecutors had argued for a nine-and-a-half-year prison sentence in closing arguments over fears she was being used as a political pawn as Russia struggled under broad Western sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Guilty verdicts are to be expected, as few defendants have been acquitted in the Russian judicial system. era.
Ms Greener’s future will now be determined by negotiations between Russian and US diplomats. The U.S. proposes a prisoner-swap program — Ms. Greener and former Marine Mr. Whelan are being held in a Russian prison on espionage charges. Call “Fiction” and “fabrication” for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout – the so-called “death merchant”, serving 25 years in prison in the United States.
Phoenix Mercury Center has been detained since February 17, when she was arrested at Moscow airport while playing for Russian team Yekaterinburg, east of the Ural Mountains. Russian officials said a ruling would need to be made before a possible exchange could take place. U.S. officials say she was wrongfully detained.
Ms Greener was emotional in court on Thursday as she apologized to her team and family ahead of the sentencing in a case that has reached the highest levels of U.S. and Russian diplomacy.
Top U.S. and Russian diplomats, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, discussed the issue last week — their first conversation since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. No agreement was reached during the call.
Before her sentencing, Ms Griner said she did not intend to break the law when she carried e-cigarettes on the flight.
“I want to apologise to my teammates, my club, my fans and the city [Yekaterinburg] For the mistakes I made and the embarrassment for them,” Ms Griner said, according to Associated Press“I also want to apologize to my parents, my siblings, my Phoenix Mercury organization in my hometown, the amazing women in the WNBA, and my amazing spouse in my hometown.”
“I made an honest mistake and I hope your ruling doesn’t end my life,” she added.
Ms Greener said Yekaterinburg had become her “second home”.
“I didn’t know I would be so impressed by the team, the city, the fans and my teammates in the six-and-a-half years I spent here,” she told the court. “I distinctly remember coming out of the gym, all the little girls waiting for me in the stands, and that’s what keeps me coming back here.”
Ms. Greener’s lawyers have presented witnesses for her role on the WNBA offseason team Russia, as well as written testimony from doctors who prescribed marijuana for pain.
Ms Blagovolina argued that Ms Griner should be acquitted on the grounds that she has no criminal record and because she worked “in the development of Russian basketball”.
Alexander Boykov, another lawyer defending Ms Griner, spoke about her role in winning multiple titles with the Russian team, adding that she was well-liked by her teammates and respected by many of them she.
Mr Boykov told the court that Ms Griner’s conviction would hinder Russia’s efforts to improve sport in its country and opposed Moscow’s claim that politics should be removed from sport.
Lawyers noted that after her arrest, Ms Greener gained affection from guards and other inmates, with some shouting “Britney, everything will be alright!” as she walked around the prison.
Ms Blago Wallina argued before sentencing that “there should be a lighter penalty”.
Ms Greener told the court ahead of Thursday’s sentencing that her parents had “taken responsibility” for raising her.
“That’s why I pleaded guilty to my own charges – I understand everything that was said to me in the charges against me, but I have no intention of breaking Russian law,” she said, according to era“I want the court to understand that this was an honest mistake in my haste and stress trying to recover from post-Covid and trying to get back on my team.”