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Basketball star Brittney Griner sentenced to 9 years imprisonment after jury finds her guilty of smuggling cannabis pen

Basketball star Brittney Griner sentenced to 9 years imprisonment after jury finds her guilty of smuggling cannabis pen
On Thursday, August 4, a Russian court found WNBA player Brittney Griner guilty of bringing illegal narcotics into the country and sentenced her to nine years in prison.

Since her detention more than five months ago at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, where customs authorities allegedly found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage, the two-time Olympian and Phoenix Mercury player has been imprisoned abroad. She was charged with purposefully bringing drugs into the nation, where it is prohibited to consume marijuana either for medical or recreational purposes.

Griner pleaded guilty in July to possessing the substance but has also maintained that she did not mean to break the law, telling authorities that she mistakenly put the cannisters in her suitcase as she rushed to pack for her return to Russia, where she plays for the UMMC Ekaterinburg basketball team during the WNBA’s offseason.

Griner’s lawyer, Maria Blagovolin, also noted that Griner was prescribed medical cannabis two years ago to treat severe chronic pain and presented a doctor’s note in court as proof. Blagovolin last month also provided a series of tests the American athlete received as part of an anti-doping check, none of which turned up any banned substances in her system.

The court “found the defendant guilty” of smuggling and possessing “a significant amount of narcotics”, judge Anna Sotnikova told a court in the town of Khimki just outside Moscow. The player was also fined one million rubles ($16,300).

Basketball star Brittney Griner sentenced to 9 years imprisonment after jury finds her guilty of smuggling cannabis pen

US President Joe Biden was quick to condemn the verdict, calling it “unacceptable” and renewing his calls for the player’s release

“We will continue to use every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible,” he said, referring to another American imprisoned in Russia on an espionage conviction.

Basketball star Brittney Griner sentenced to 9 years imprisonment after jury finds her guilty of smuggling cannabis pen
Sotnikova had said on Thursday that Griner committed the crime “deliberately”. But Griner had testified during the trial it was a mistake.

Since her arrest, Griner’s relatives, teammates and supporters have been calling on the US government to put its full weight behind the case to push for her release.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on February 17, a week before Russia invaded Ukraine, when she entered the country with vape canisters containing cannabis oil.

“I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never intended to break Russian law,” Griner said through a translator while standing in the metal cage reserved for defendants in Russian courtrooms. She apologised to her family, teammates, and her spouse

Griner’s lawyers said they plan on appealing the verdict, accusing the court of ignoring the evidence presented by the defence.

“Taking into account the amount of the substance – not to mention the defects of the expertise – and the plea, the verdict is absolutely unreasonable,” her defence team said in a statement.

[ Source : Zambianobserver.com]

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