A Russian court upheld the 9-year sentence of WNBA star Brittney Griner

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The Russian court on Tuesday upheld the sentence of the American basketball star to nine years in prison Britney Greener whose appeal was dismissed.

Griner, an eight-time All-Star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time gold medalist of the Olympic Gameswas convicted of drug possession on August 4 after police said they found vape canisters of cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

Griner took part in the session of the Moscow Regional Court via video link from the colony near Moscow, where she is incarcerated.

Griner’s February arrest came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine. At the time, Griner was returning to Russia, where she played in the offseason for the US Championship.

Griner admitted that she had the canisters in her luggage, but said she had inadvertently packed them in a hurry and had no criminal intent. Her defense team submitted written statements saying she was prescribed cannabis for pain relief.

The nine-year sentence was close to the maximum term of 10 years Griner’s attorneys argued after being convinced of the excessiveness of the punishment. They said that in similar cases, defendants received an average of about five years in prison, with about a third of them receiving parole.

Earlier her beliefThe US State Department declared Griner an “unlawful detainer,” a charge Russia has vehemently denied.

Reflecting the increase in pressure on the Biden administration to do more to bring Griner home, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken took the unusual step of publicly revealing in July that Washington had made a “substantial offer” to bring Griner home along with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year prison sentence. in Russia for espionage.

Blinken did not elaborate, but the Associated Press and other news organizations reported that Washington had offered to trade Griner and Whelan for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in a US prison and was once nicknamed the “dealer of death.”

The White House said that they have not yet received a productive response from Russia to this proposal.

Russian diplomats declined to comment on the US proposal and urged Washington to discuss the issue in confidential talks, avoiding public statements.

In September, US President Joe Biden met with Cherelle Griner, Brittney Griner’s wife, as well as the player’s agent, Lindsay Colas. Biden also sat separately with Elizabeth Whelan, Paul Whelan’s sister.

The White House said after the meetings that the president stressed to the families his “continued commitment to working in every way possible to bring Brittney and Paul home safely.”

In April, the United States and Russia exchanged prisoners. Moscow released US Marine Corps veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for the US release of Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenka, who was convicted of drug-trafficking conspiracy.

Moscow has also sought the release of other Russians held in US custody.

One of them is Alexander Vinnik, who was accused of laundering billions of dollars through an illegal cryptocurrency exchange. Vinnik was arrested in Greece in 2017 and extradited to the United States in August.

Vinnik’s French lawyer, Frédéric Bello, told Russian newspaper Izvestia last month that his client hopes to take part in a possible exchange.

The newspaper suggested that another possible candidate was Roman Selyazhnev, the son of a Russian deputy. In 2017, he was sentenced to 27 years in prison on charges of burglary and credit card fraud.

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