Russian court sentences U.S. citizen Griner to 9 years in penal colony for smuggling drugs
MOSCOW. Aug 4 (Interfax) - The Khimki City Court has sentenced Brittney Griner, a basketball player from the United States, to nine years in a general security penal colony, finding her guilty of storing and smuggling narcotic substances, an Interfax correspondent reported from the courtroom on Thursday.
"The court found Brittney Yevette Griner guilty of committing a crime envisaged by Part 1 of Article 228 of the Russian Criminal Code and Part 2 of Article 229.1 of the Russian Criminal Code (storage and smuggling of narcotic substances or their analogues) and sentenced her to nine years in a general security penal colony," Judge Anna Sotnikova said in the sentence.
Griner was also fined one million rubles.
The court did not take into account aggravating circumstances, but took into account the athlete's merits, her personality and charity activities as extenuating circumstances.
The defense lawyers for the U.S. basketball player intend to appeal. "We will definitely appeal," the lawyers for the athlete said in a statement.
"We are very disappointed by the sentence. As professional lawyers, we believe the court should be fair to everyone, regardless of nationality. The court fully ignored all evidence provided by the defense, mainly, recognition of guilt. It contradicts the current judicial practice. Bearing in mind the amount of substances (let alone the flaws of the forensic evaluation) and the arguments in favor of the prosecutors, the sentence is absolutely unfounded," lawyers Marina Blagovolina and Alexander Boikov said.
Earlier, during oral arguments the prosecutor asked for a prison sentence of nine years and six months at a medium-security facility and a one million ruble fine.
The defense argued for her acquittal or a lenient sentence below the minimum.
Griner was charged with illegal possession of drugs other than for dealing and smuggling them in large quantity.
According to the case summary, on February 17, 2022, Griner arrived in Moscow on a plane from New York, and hashish oil was found in her luggage.
Griner is currently in custody.
In Russia, Griner played for the Yekaterinburg-based basketball club UMMC Ekaterinburg.
U.S. President Joe Biden has reacted to the conviction of Griner by urging the country's authorities to release her immediately.
"My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible," Biden was quoted on the White House website as saying.
The U.S. president also said that, in his opinion, Griner was detained in Russia "wrongfully."