A Russian court on Thursday sentenced US basketball star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison on drug charges.
The 31-year-old Griner admitted possessing cannabis oil but told the court she made an “honest mistake”. However, the court convicted her of smuggling and possessing narcotics, and gave her close to the maximum sentence recommended by prosecutors.
Griner, who is a double Olympic gold medallist and 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. She had come to Russia to play club basketball during the US off-season, a BBC report said.
Meanwhile, Griner’s defence team said they would appeal against Thursday’s verdict by the court in Khimki, near Moscow.
Reading the verdict, the presiding judge said she took into account the fact that the American had already spent a considerable time in detention.
“I made an honest mistake, and I hope in your ruling it does not end my life. I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime,” Griner had told the court after both sides presented closing arguments.
The basketball player also said she had received neither an explanation of her rights nor access to a lawyer in the initial hours of her detention, and that she had to use a translation app on her phone to communicate.