KHIMKI, Russia (AFP) — A Russian court on Thursday sentenced US basketball star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison over drug smuggling as US President Joe Biden called the ruling “unacceptable.”
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.
Sotnikova sentenced Griner, one of the world’s greatest basketball players, to nine years in a Russian penal colony and said she would also have to pay a fine of one million rubles ($16,590).
“I love my family,” Griner told journalists after the ruling as the 6-foot-9 athlete was led away by members of Russia’s law enforcement.
Her defense team told reporters the 31-year-old — known as BG to her friends and fans — was “very upset” and “very stressed.”
Biden immediately released a statement, calling the Russian court’s sentencing of Griner “unacceptable.”
“Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” Biden said in the 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.”
The US president reiterated that he would “work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue” to repatriate Griner.
Griner’s trial accelerated in recent days as the United States and Russia discuss a potential prisoner swap that could involve the basketball star.
The White House urged Russia later on Thursday to accept its offer of a deal for the release of Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan, who was imprisoned on espionage charges.