US basketball star Brittney Griner (File image)
Photo : AP
Moscow: US basketball star Brittney Griner
was sentenced to nine years in prison by a Russian court on Thursday over drug smuggling. US President Joe Biden
called the verdict “unacceptable”. Judge Anna Sotnikova, while announcing the verdict, said that the court “found the defendant guilty” of smuggling and possessing “a significant amount of narcotics, reported AFP.
Notably, Griner is one of the world’s greatest basketball players. Judge Sotnikova also asked Griner to pay one million rubles or USD 16,590. After the verdict, Griner told reporters “I love my family”. Biden, in a statement, said that Russia
is wrongfully detaining Griner. “It’s unacceptable and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates,” Biden said as quoted by AFP.
The US President said that he would work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to repatriate the basketball star. Griner was detained at a Moscow airport
in February. She was found carrying vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage. Griner was arrested days after Russia invaded Ukraine.
The star basketball player’s defence team expressed disappointment over the verdict. Her lawyers Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said that they would appeal against the verdict. National Basketball Association (NBA) and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) leaders termed the sentencing as “unjustified and unfortunate”.
Notably, the development came at a time when tension are sparing between the US and Russia over the latter’s military intervention in Ukraine. Griner was detained when she arrived in Russia to play club basketball with UMMC Ekaterinburg during the US off-season.