Brittney Griner, a great basketball player for the United States, was given a nine-year prison term in Russia for drug offenses.
Griner, 31, acknowledged having cannabis oil in her possession but claimed she erred “honestly.”
However, the court found her guilty of drug trafficking and possession, and it nearly awarded her the maximum term suggested by the prosecution.
Griner is regarded as one of the top players in the world and has won two Olympic gold medals.
When vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were discovered in her luggage in February at an airport close to Moscow, she was detained. For the US off-season, she had traveled to Russia to play club basketball.
Soon after, Russia invaded Ukraine, and since then, her case has been the focus of prominent US-Russian diplomacy.
The sentence was labeled “inappropriate” by US Vice President Joe Biden.
A threat to everyone who travels, works, or lives abroad is posed by Russia, as well as any nation that engages in illegal imprisonment, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
I love my family, Griner reportedly said as she was led out of the courthouse in custody, according to Reuters.
Given that the US and Russia have been talking about a prospective prisoner swap that could include the basketball player, it is uncertain how long she will actually be imprisoned.
According to reports in US media, Washington may release the Merchant of Death, or imprisoned Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, to Moscow as part of the agreement.
The defense team for Griner announced that they would appeal the court’s decision from Khimki, near Moscow, on Thursday.
The American has already spent a significant amount of time in detention, the presiding judge in Khimki remarked as she read the verdict.
After both parties made their final arguments, Griner addressed the court and said, “I committed an honest mistake, and I hope in your judgement it does not terminate my life.”
I did not plan or conspire to conduct this crime, she stated.
In addition, Griner claimed that during the first several hours of her arrest, neither a lawyer nor an explanation of her rights had been provided to her, and that she had to use a translation software on her phone to speak.