American basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced Thursday to nine years in a Russian prison following her conviction on drug charges.
Russian officials contended that Griner committed the crime on purpose. They also levied a fine totaling about $16,400 against the 31-year-old WNBA veteran.
Griner’s lawyers Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said following the verdict announcement that the court ignored all the evidence they presented and that they will appeal the decision.
“We are very disappointed by the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality,” the attorneys said in a statement. “The court completely ignored all the evidence of the defense, and most importantly, the guilty plea. This contradicts the existing legal practice.
“Taking into account the amount of the substance (not to mention the defects of the expertise) and the plea, the verdict is absolutely unreasonable. We will certainly file an appeal,” they added.
Authorities arrested Griner on Feb. 17 at an airport in Moscow after finding less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. She has been detained since then.
Recently, American officials revealed that the Biden administration had offered notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, another American detainee.
“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” President Biden said. “It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”