WNBA star Brittany Griner has been sentenced to nine years in prison by a Russian court.

WNBA star Brittany Griner has been sentenced to nine years in prison by a Russian court.

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WASHINGTON – A Russian court on Thursday convicted Britney Griner of drug charges and sentenced her to nine years in prison, as the US government fights to free the WNBA star.

The court fined Griner 1 million rubles ($16,301).

Griner, 31, who plays professional basketball in Russia during the WNBA season, was arrested in February at a Russian airport for allegedly smuggling vape cartridges with cannabis oil.

According to Russian law, the charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. In closing arguments, Russian prosecutors asked the court to sentence him to 9 ½ years in prison and to pay a fine of 1 million rubles.

Griner asked the court for leniency earlier Thursday.

“I never intended to hurt anybody,” Griner said following closing arguments, according to NBC News. “I never intended to endanger the Russian people. I never intended to break any laws here.”

Her lawyers previously said Griner only used cannabis medically and never used it while in Russia.

Last month, Griner pleaded guilty but said she was in a hurry and accidentally grabbed the cans of cannabis in her suitcase.

The court’s decision comes a week after the Biden administration confirmed it. presented to the Russian government For Greener and former US Marine Paul Whelan to release. President in a statement on Thursday Joe Biden He called the prison sentence “unacceptable” and called for Griner’s immediate release.

“It is unacceptable and I am calling for Russia’s immediate release to be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates,” Biden wrote in a statement.

“My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every avenue possible to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home as soon as possible,” the president added.

Last week, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told reporters that the United States “put a big proposal on the table weeks ago” to release Griner and Whelan. The top US diplomat said he would discuss the offer with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in what would be the first known talks between the two. The Kremlin invaded Ukraine.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters during a White House press briefing.

“I think it’s best that the details remain between us and our Russian counterparts,” Kirby said.

I was afraid

US WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner He stands at the home of the defendants before the start of a trial at the Khimki court outside Moscow on July 26, 2022.

Alexander Zemlyanchenko | AFP | Getty Images

Days before her guilty plea last month, Griner wrote to Biden asking for direct help in the case.

The professional athlete said in July “I am sitting here alone in my thoughts and without my husband, my family, my friends, the Olympic jersey or any success to protect me, I am afraid that I may live here forever” 5 letter.

Griner wrote: “I understand you are dealing with a lot of this, but please don’t forget about me and the other American prisoners.” Please do whatever you can to bring it home.

After receiving the letter, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called the WNBA star’s wife, Cheryl Griner. Biden wrote a response to Greener that was hand-delivered by American diplomats in Moscow.

A White House readout of the call said Biden assured her husband that he was working to secure Griner’s release as soon as possible. He also said in the call that he is working to free Willa, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison in Russia.

Whelan in 2011. In 2018, he was charged with spying for the United States. Whelan was visiting Russia to attend a wedding at the time of his arrest, his brother David Whelan said.

Last month, Biden signed an executive order expanding the administration’s existing tools to prevent the arrest and detention of US citizens.

The executive order is known as “”.Strengthen efforts to bring hostages and wrongfully detained US citizens home” Authorizes the imposition of financial sanctions and visa bans on hostages.

“This executive order reflects the administration’s commitment not only to the issues at large, but also to families,” a senior Biden administration official said last month, speaking on condition of anonymity. To share details about the new executive order.

In April, Russia agreed to release former US Marine Trevor Reed. Exchange of prisoners with the United States.

Reed was accused of assaulting a Russian police officer in 2019. Reid and his family have maintained their innocence, and the U.S. government says they were unjustly imprisoned.

In exchange for Reid’s release, Biden agreed to release Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for smuggling cocaine into the United States.

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