WNBA star Brittney Griner has been found guilty of attempting to smuggle illegal narcotics into Russia. As a result, she’s been sentenced to 9 years in a penal colony, near the maximum penalty.
Breaking News: Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine years in a penal colony by a Russian court. Her defense team called the verdict "absolutely unreasonable" and said they "will certainly file an appeal." https://t.co/FDKEbLKbLJ
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 4, 2022
U.S. officials say Griner was wrongly detained and is being used as a bargaining chip in diplomatic wrangling.
From the New York Times:
The verdict, virtually preordained in a legal system in which defendants are rarely acquitted, leaves Ms. Griner’s fate subject to diplomatic bargaining between Russia and the United States.
The countries have been discussing the possibility of a prisoner exchange that would bring Ms. Griner home from Russia, where she has been detained since traveling there in mid-February.
Officials in Moscow have said that a verdict in her trial was a necessary precondition for a possible exchange for Ms. Griner, an Olympian who is one of the biggest stars of her generation.
The judge also issued Ms. Griner with a fine of 1 million rubles, about $16,300.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has reportedly been on a phone call with his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, but no progress regarding Griner has been reported.
The Biden administration has made an official offer to exchange Griner and businessman Paul Whelan, also being held in Russia, for convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout.
President Biden quickly issued a statement calling for her immediate release.
President Biden: "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. It's unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately."
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 4, 2022
Russia gives Brittney Griner NINE years. Griner was arrested with less than 1 gram of cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s airport on February 17th.
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) August 4, 2022