A judge in Russia convicted American basketball star Brittney Griner of drug possession and smuggling Thursday and sentenced her to nine years in prison.
Judge Anna Sotnikova said the time Griner has served in custody since her arrest in February would count toward the sentence.
Griner reacted to the sentence with little emotion. She listened to the verdict from the defendant’s cage, a blank stare on her face.
While recapping the evidence and giving her findings Thursday, the judge said the 31-year-old Griner illegally brought drugs into Russia.
Before the unusually quick verdict was announced, Griner made a final appeal to the court. She said she had no intention to break the law by bringing vape cartridges with cannabis oil into the country when she flew to Moscow in February to play basketball in the city of Yekaterinburg.
Attention now turns to the possibility of a high-stakes prisoner swap that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken proposed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Under the proposed deal, Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia on an espionage conviction, would go free.
Russian officials have remained poker-faced about a possible deal and chafed at U.S. statements about the case, saying a possible deal should be discussed through “quiet diplomacy without releases of speculative information.”
U.S. President Joe Biden issued a statement on the verdict that referred to Griner as “wrongfully detained,” a designation that Russian officials have bristled at.
“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. 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.
Reporting by Associated Press.
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