Brittney Yevette Griner is a professional basketball player for the League of Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) in America. An exceptionally talented player and twice an Olympic gold medalist, Griner faced an unfortunate setback in her career as she was convicted in August 2022 for smuggling and keeping cannabis oil in possession.
She had appealed for her nine-year sentence. However, the latest reports confirm that a Russian court rejected the appeal. Krasnogorsk court which is situated to the northwest of Moscow decided to uphold the verdict as such.
Why Did The Arrest Take Place?
On February 17, Griner was taken into custody from the Sheremetyevo International Airport, Moscow. She had cartridges of cannabis oil which is a drug that is banned in Russia. On August 4, it was sentenced that she be put in a penal colony for nine years for the crime she committed knowingly.
The news comes in now that she had pleaded guilty and said that it was an honest mistake in her video testimony. She had been in haste while packing, as she puts it, and the cartridges were packed without any criminal intent.
Events At The Court
The defense argued that cannabis oil had been medically prescribed for relieving her body pain. They claimed that the nine-year sentence was excessively cruel and pointed out that similar criminals had received only five-year sentences earlier. They also said that most of these criminals were granted parole.
Denying her appeal, the court also said that her time in prison will be calculated again based on her activities during the detention before the trial. Detention for a day before the trial is equivalent to one and a half days in prison. Even then, Griner has to serve around eight years of imprisonment.
Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov are her lawyers. They remarked through an email that the response made by the court was highly unsatisfactory and that they were extremely disappointed. They said that such court practices are non-existent these days.
Griner has expressed her fear of being away from her family and friends as she thinks that she will not be exchanged. The lawyers stated that further moves have to be planned after discussions with Griner.
Tensions Between US And Russia
The officials from the United States believe that Griner has been detained wrongfully. They argued that Russia was retorting to the war with Ukraine through this case. But the Russian authorities openly denied this accusation.
The arrest of the basketball player came in the wake of the weakening ties between the US and Russia amidst the invasion of Russia into Ukraine. Griner had come to Russia to play for a team during the offseason of the WNBA and this was how she got caught in the case.
The President of the United States, Joe Biden, had met Griner’s spouse last month. He said that the verdict of the Russian court was utterly inadmissible and that the State will do everything in its power to release her. He promised that the administration will stay in close contact with the authorities in Russia and resolve issues of Americans who were detained in Russia. He said that they will not be stopping the fight although many results have not been received yet.
Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor of the US, confirmed what Biden said by remarking that the President was willing to go to great lengths and will not hesitate to make hard decisions to bring back the citizens from Russia.
Cathy Engelbert, the Commissioner of WNBA, said that it was high time that an end is put to this case and that Griner was back home.