Russian justice rejected, Tuesday, October 25, the appeal of American basketball player Brittney Griner, sentenced in August to nine years in prison for possession and trafficking of cannabis.
The court decided to “leave unchanged” the verdict against the player, said judge Elena Vorontsova. Only one relaxation from the initial sentence: each day that Brittney Griner – arrested in February and imprisoned since – spent in custody before her sentencing will be counted as a day and a half and deducted from the total of the sentence to be served.
“I really hope that the court will adjust this verdict because it has been very, very stressful and very traumatic for my mental and psychological state”, had declared shortly before the basketball player. Aged 32, Brittney Griner participated by videoconference in this appeal trial in a court in Krasnogorsk, near Moscow.
Wearing a red and black checkered shirt, the sportswoman notably expressed her grief at being far from her wife and loved ones, and not being able to communicate with them. She said ” do not understand “ such a severe judgment, “while people are being inflicted” less severe penalties “ for more serious crimes”.
Possible exchange with a Russian arms dealer
One of his lawyers, Alexander Boïkov, had for his part asked the court to “consider an acquittal” by dismissing the case. “The eyes of the whole world are on this case”underlined Mr Boïkov, denouncing “the cruelty of this judgment”.
Brittney Griner is the subject of legal proceedings “can”immediately reacted the national security adviser of the White House, Jake Sullivan. “President Biden has been very clear that Brittney must be released immediately”he said, regretting that she continues to be “wrongly imprisoned, under unacceptable circumstances”.
Brittney Griner was arrested in February in the Russian capital in possession of a vaporizer containing cannabis-based liquid. She admitted having possessed this substance, however claiming to have brought it to Russia inadvertently and to use it legally in the United States as a painkiller. She had gone to Russia to play during the American offseason, a common practice for women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) basketball players, who often earn more money abroad than in the United States.
The case of this woman has since taken on a geopolitical dimension in the context of the crisis between Moscow and Washington linked to the Russian offensive in Ukraine.
Washington has repeatedly stated that it made a “significant offer” so that Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, an ex-American soldier also detained in Russia, are released. According to Russian diplomatic sources, a possible exchange of prisoners could take place between Brittney Griner and Viktor Bout, a Russian arms trafficker detained in the United States. The latter was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and is serving a 25-year prison sentence.