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Brittney Griner famous US Basketball player

Griner is jailed for nine years by a Russian court; The US demands her release

American basketball player Brittney Griner was found guilty of drug smuggling by a Russian court and given a nine-year prison sentence, which US President Joe Biden called “unacceptable.”

Judge Anna Sotnikova stated in front of a court in the town of Khimki, which is located just outside of Moscow, that the court “found the defendant guilty” of smuggling and possessing “a significant amount of narcotics.” Additionally, the player was fined one million rubles, or $16,300.

After the verdict, Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and star of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), was escorted out of the courtroom by police in handcuffs and turned to reporters and said, ” I love my family.

Biden reiterated his call for the 31-year-old’s release and deplored the verdict.

He said, referring to another American detained in Russia for espionage, “My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”

Brittney Griner famous US Basketball player
Brittney Griner famous US Basketball player

Later on Thursday, national security spokesperson John Kirby urged Russia to accept a “serious proposal” Washington had made for Griner’s release weeks ago.

The athlete and Russian prisoner Viktor Bout, who was once a prolific arms dealer, have been included in the US-Russia prisoner swap proposal.

On February 17, Griner was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for bringing vape canisters containing cannabis oil into the country.

Thursday, Sotnikova stated that Griner committed the crime “deliberately,” despite Griner’s testimony that it was a mistake.

The player said it was an “honest mistake” in court on Thursday ahead of the sentencing.

Standing in the metal cage that is reserved for defendants in Russian courtrooms, Griner said through a translator, “I never intended to break Russian law, I never intended to hurt anybody, I never intended to put the Russian population in jeopardy.” She expressed regret to her spouse, teammates, and family.

Response to the appeal.
Families, teammates, and supporters of Griner have been pleading with the US government to support the case and ensure her release ever since her arrest.

Her detainment came multi week before Russia attacked Ukraine in the midst of a spike in strains among Moscow and Washington.

When Griner’s trial began in July, she had entered a guilty plea and claimed that she did not intend to bring the canisters into Russia. In Russia, using cannabis for both medicinal and recreational purposes is against the law.

Griner’s attorneys stated that they intend to appeal the verdict, claiming that the court ignored the defense’s evidence.

Her defense team stated in a statement, “Taking into account the amount of the substance, not to mention the defects of the expertise, and the plea, the verdict is absolutely unreasonable.”

The proposed prisoner swap will now be the focus of our attention.

Griner’s case was moved under the supervision of the US Department of State’s special presidential envoy for hostage affairs in July, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to accept a deal that would allow Griner and Whelan to go free last week.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the Lavrov-Blinken call marked the highest level of known communication between Washington and Moscow.

US efforts to isolate the Kremlin were at odds with the direct outreach over Griner.

Thursday, Blinken said that Griner’s sentence “further compounds the injustice of her wrongful detention”, promising to continue to push to bring her “home”.

He said in a statement, “Russia, and any country engaging in wrongful detention, represents a threat to the safety of everyone traveling, working, and living abroad.”

On Thursday, Griner expressed her hope that politics would not affect the case.

Griner stated prior to the judge’s decision, “I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope that is far from this courtroom.”

After spending some time at home in the United States, Griner had flown to Russia to join her team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, for the playoffs. During the WNBA offseason, she participated in the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League.

Griner testified last week that she was perplexed as to how the vape cartridges got into her luggage.

“I still don’t understand to this day how they ended up in my bag,” she told the court on July 27. “If I had to guess on how they ended up in my bags, I was in a rush packing.”

On Thursday, athletes, activists, and lawmakers in the United States criticized Griner’s sentence, stressing that it was not related to the drug charges but rather to the geopolitical rivalry between Washington and Moscow.

Ruben Gallego, a member of the United States Congress who represents portions of Phoenix, Arizona where Griner played prior to his departure for Russia, referred to the sentence as “unsurprising as it is unjust.”

On Twitter, Gallego wrote, “It’s clear that Russia sees Ms. Griner as a political pawn in their war in Ukraine,” Gallego wrote on Twitter. “I’ll keep working with the Biden administration’s efforts to bring her home.”

Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley also called the sentence a “miscarriage of justice” that makes it “clearer than ever that Brittney Griner is being wrongfully detained purely because of her nationality

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth, on the other hand, expressed concern that the sentence might be political.

“Nine years for bringing two vaping cartridges into Russia! That seems like a sentence not tailored to the gravity of the offense but designed to increase her value as a bargaining chip for Russians held by the United States.” He had it written on Twitter.

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Tadese Faforiji

I am Tadese Faforiji, a history student of the prestigious Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State- 21st-century University, properly called. I am a blogger and an avid writer.