American Basketball Player Brittney Griner Found Guilty In Russian Drug Trial
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Featured Image Credit: REUTERS / Sipa US / Alamy Stock Photo
Brittney Griner has been found guilty of drug possession and smuggling by a Russian court.
Griner apologised to her family and her team as a Russian court heard closing arguments in her drug possession trial ahead of the verdict.
In her final remarks, Griner said she had no intent to break Russian law by bringing vape cartridges containing cannabis oil with her when she flew to Moscow in February.
She said: "I made an honest mistake, and I hope in your ruling it does not end my life.".
Prosecutors asked the presiding judge to sentence Griner to nine and a half years in prison, and the judge said they had proved their case.
The basketballer only had 0.7 grams of THC in her possession when arrested at the airport, but that has been enough for the Russian justice system to find her guilty and perhaps condemn her to years in prison.
A conviction in this case was all but certain as acquittal in Russian courts is an extremely rare event, with fewer than one percent of defendants who stand trial found not guilty.
Griner's trial could have consequences at high diplomatic levels beyond a simple court case as she could be returned to the US as part of a prisoner swap deal.
Prosecutors have pushed for a long sentence in the case, so Griner's only hope of a swift return to home soil could be such a deal going ahead.
The sentence she faces depends utterly on the judge, who Griner appealed to show leniency in her case and recognise that her offence was committed by mistake rather than malice.
US officials have offered to swap Griner and another incarcerated American with Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who is known as 'the merchant of death'.
They consider Griner to be 'wrongfully detained' and wish to swap her along with Paul Whelan, who was detained in Russia in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage.
Bout was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2012 on charges of scheming to illegally sell millions of dollars worth of weapons.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on on Monday that Russia has made a “bad faith” response to the US government’s offer of a prisoner swap, though would not elaborate on the details of the deal.
Griner had been in Russia to play for Russian basketball team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the off-season of the WNBA.