Brittney Griner loses appeal and will be forced to spend nine years behind bars in Russia
| Last updated
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock. Sipa US/Alamy Stock Photo.
A Russian court has rejected American basketballer Brittney Griner's appeal of her nine-year prison sentence for drug smuggling.
Back in February, the Phoenix Mercury basketball player was arrested at a Russian airport after police allegedly found cannabis oil cartridges in her luggage.
The 31-year-old has remained in Russian custody ever since and was convicted in August for drug smuggling and possession.
The Olympic champion has now fronted court to appeal her nine year sentence.
Griner told the court via video link that her time in jail has been 'very traumatic'.
"I really hope that the court will adjust this sentence because it has been very, very stressful and very traumatic," Griner said, as per news.com.au.
But Griner would not have her wish, with Russian prosecutors swiftly denying her appeal.
They told the US sports star that the sentence was 'fair'.
Griner's lawyer Alexander Boykov said, as per news.com.au: "No judge, hand on heart, will honestly say that Griner’s nine-year sentence is in line with Russian criminal law."
As per ESPN, her lawyers added: "The verdict contains numerous defects and we hoped that the court of appeal would take them into consideration. We still think the punishment is excessive and contradicts the existing court practice."
The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) said in a statement that the appeal is 'further verification that [Griner] is not just wrongfully detained' but is 'very clearly a hostage'.
The maximum sentence for Griner's drug charges is 10 years.
Fewer than one percent of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and acquittals can be overturned, reports AP.
The basketballer only had 0.7 grams of THC in her possession when she was arrested at the airport in February, but that has been enough for the Russian justice system to find her guilty and condemn her to years in prison.
Griner had been in Russia to play for Russian basketball team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the off-season of the WNBA.
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.