On Aug. 4, a Russian court found out WNBA star Brittney Griner guilty of drug smuggling and possession chargesand sentenced her to nine years in prison.
The widely expected verdict came after a monthlong trial and nearly six months after the basketball star was arrested at a Moscow-area airport with cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage, NPR reported.
The trial's outcome was not unusual given that Russian criminal courts have a reported conviction rate of 99%. However, it appears that Griner's fate will now be decided in the political arena.
The Biden administration has tried to negotiate with Russia to free her as well as another jailed U.S. resident, Paul Whelan. Russia has said any potential dealincluding a rumored prisoner swap that could see the U.S. release notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is currently in an Illinois prisonwould have to wait until after the court's verdict.
"I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn't end my life here," Griner said before the ruling/sentencing.
In a statement shortly after sentencing, President Joe Biden said, "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. 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."
Human Rights Campaign Interim President Joni Madison issued a statement saying, "Over the past several months, the world has watched with growing concern as Brittney Grineran American hero who is so much more than a WNBA superstar and Olympiancontinues to be unlawfully detained in Russia. We join with so many of Brittney's loved onesher friends, teammates and familyin sending her support as she endures this unimaginable hardship, so far from home.
"Today's harsh sentencing is merely the latest example of how she is being used as a political pawnand it has to stop. It is long past time that we bring Brittney home and we support the Biden administration's efforts to do so."