A Russian state prosecutor had requested 9.5 years in prison for Griner, who said in her closing remarks that bringing the cartridges into Russia had been "an honest mistake"
Griner was also fined 1 million roubles ($16,000).
After the sentencing, Griner appeared sad and stony-faced and said she understood the sentence. Before the verdict, she tearfully pleaded with a Russian judge not to "end her life" with a harsh prison sentence.
Griner was escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs by police after the ruling, turning to reporters and saying: "I love my family".
Us President Joe Biden, under pressure to bring home Americans held in Russia, called on Russia to free Griner immediately and said his administration would continue to work for her release.
"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," he said in a statement.
"It's unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates."
Her sentencing could now pave the way for a U.S.-Russia prisoner swap that would include the 31-year-old athlete and an imprisoned Russian who was once a prolific arms dealer.
The White House urged Moscow to accept a "serious proposal" Washington made weeks ago for the return of U.S. basketball player, national security spokesperson John Kirby said.
Griner's defence team said they will appeal on behalf of the U.S. basketball star
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and a Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) star, was arrested in mid-February as she arrived to play for a Russian side during the WNBA offseason.
Her case threw the Texan into the geopolitical maelstrom triggered when President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, propelling U.S.-Russian relations to a new post-Cold War low.
Griner's lawyers said they would appeal a verdict they said was "absolutely unreasonable". Her defence team said the court had ignored all evidence they had presented, as well as Griner's guilty plea.
"She is very upset, very stressed," said Maria Blagovolina, partner at Rybalkin Gortsunyan Dyakin and Partners, after the hearing. "She can hardly talk. It's a difficult time for her."
Griner had admitted having the vape cartridges containing hashish oil but said she had made an honest mistake by inadvertently packing them.
Chargé d'affaires of the U.S. embassy in Moscow, Elizabeth Rood, who was also present at the court hearing, said the nine-year sentence had been "a miscarriage of justice".
The nine-year prison sentence imposed by a Russian court on US basketball star got relatively low-key treatment on two Russian TV stations on Thursday.
Reports on the case came towards the end of their news bulletins.
Shortly after the sentence was announced, Channel 1 devoted just 25 seconds to the story while Rossiya 24 gave the story more than four minutes with the correspondent calling the case "controversial".
American WNBA athletes showed solidarity with Griner on Social Media, voicing their support on Twitter.
"Thinking of BG and how much light she relentlessly brought to everyone around her. Even after sentencing is complete I hope @POTUS & @WhiteHouse will continue to do everything in their power to bring Brittney Griner & all other Americans detained abroad home," wrote Phoenix Mercury player, Brianna Turner.
Griner’s former high school basketball coach said the WNBA star is misunderstood and expressed disappointment in Griner’s imprisonment.
Debbie Jackson coached Griner at Houston’s Nimitz High School, where Griner graduated in 2009. Jackson was a coach at the school from 1991 to 2012.
“I mean, really, it’s just been such a, a long process just to get to this step, to get to the end of the trial, that, you know, it’s frustrating, it’s disappointing,” Jackson said. “It’s...you want to pull your hair out because you want news. Um, but she’s always in my prayers. Every night.”
Griner, a two-time Olympic champion and Phoenix Mercury player, started playing basketball relatively late in life, in her freshman year of high school. Jackson said it wasn’t long until Griner mastered the game. She became the No. 1 girls high school basketball player in the country, after carrying the Nimitz girls basketball team to a 25-5 record her senior year.
Despite her overwhelming success on the court, Jackson said Griner has remained humble and caring, qualities Jackson ascribed to Griner’s perception as an outsider in the past.
“She has been bullied for her sexual orientation. She’s black. She’s a woman, very tall stature,” Jackson said. "You know, she’s bullied about her height. And so, I think she knows, she is a very caring person because she knows how words can hurt cause she experienced that.”
Jackson, who said she kept in touch with Griner via social media post-graduation, is now looking to the United States and Russia to facilitate Griner’s speedy return home.
“I hope that, now that the sentencing has occurred, the trial is over, no more court,” Jackson said. “That the negotiations will proceed and I’m praying that both sides will negotiate in good faith.”
Published : Aug 18, 2022
Published : August 05, 2022
By : Reuters