Russian court jails US basketball player Brittney Griner for nine years on drug charges

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A Russian court has sentenced American women’s basketball star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison on drug charges.

The court “found the defendant guilty” of smuggling and possessing “a significant amount of narcotics”, judge Anna Sotnikova told a court in the town of Khimki just outside Moscow. The player was also fined one million rubles ($16,300).

Reading the verdict on Thursday, the presiding judge said she took into account the fact that the American had already spent a considerable time in detention.

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Brittney Griner
Brittney Griner Russia Jail

Brittney Griner’s defence lawyer Maria Blagovolina said her client was “very upset, very stressed”.

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“She can hardly talk. It’s a difficult time for her. When we saw Brittney on Tuesday, we told her, ‘See you on Thursday’. She said, ‘See you on doomsday’. So it looks like she was right.”

The defence team said they would appeal against the verdict.

Griner, who is considered one of the best players in the world, was detained in February at an airport near Moscow when vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage.

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She had come to Russia to play club basketball during the US off-season

Soon after, Russia invaded Ukraine and her case has become subject to high profile diplomacy between the US and Russia.

It is unclear how long she will actually spend behind bars, as the US and Russia have been discussing a potential prisoner swap that could involve the basketball player.

Reports in US media suggest imprisoned Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout – known as the Merchant of Death – could be transferred by Washington to the Russian authorities as part of the deal.

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