Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport last February and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, leaves the courtroom after prosecutors presented their final arguments.
Russian prosecutors have asked a court outside Moscow to give American women's basketball star Brittney Griner a nine-and-a-half-year prison sentence for possession of cannabis .
The final arguments were presented Thursday during Griner's trial, nearly six months after his arrest at a Moscow airport and the start of his detention, which led to the involvement of high Russian and American diplomatic authorities. /p>
Griner apologized to his family and team during his final remarks. She reiterated that she never intended to break Russian law by bringing vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil with her when she traveled. ;is flown to Moscow in February.
“I made an unintentional mistake and I hope your decision will not ruin my life.
While it seems almost certain that Griner will be found guilty, given that Russian courts rarely acquit defendants and Griner has admitted to transporting vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil in his suitcases, judges have a lot of leeway when choosing the sentence.
Lawyers for the Phoenix Mercury player and two-time Olympic gold medalist have pleaded that Griner had no criminal intent and that the cartridges ended up in her suitcases because she was in a hurry when filling them out. They presented character witnesses from the Russian team that Griner plays for during the WNBA off-season and submitted written testimony from the doctor who prescribed him the cannabis for pain treatment.
Brittney Griner chats with her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, before a court hearing in Khimki, Moscow region.
Lawyer Maria Blagovolina claimed Griner inadvertently brought the cartridges to Russia and used cannabis as a medicine only in Arizona, where it is legal to do so. Prosecutor Nikolai Vlasenko countered that Griner deliberately brought the cannabis oil with her.
It is not yet known when the verdict will be announced. If she is not released, the United States and Russia may be involved in a prisoner exchange.
Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by telephone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He took the opportunity to urge Russia to agree to a deal to secure the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia for espionage.
The interview is the contact known at the highest level between Washington and Moscow since Russia's invasion of Ukraine more than five months ago. It contradicts the US attempt to isolate the Kremlin.
According to people familiar with the offer, Griner and Whelan would be traded for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. It demonstrates all the pressure the public has put on the White House to secure the release of Griner, whose arrest has drawn fierce criticism from her teammates and supporters.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday that Russia had responded in bad faith to the US government's offer. She would have made a counter-offer that American leaders do not consider serious. She declined to offer further details.
Russian leaders, for their part, scoffed at US involvement in the case, saying it demonstrated a lack of respect for Russian law. They asked Washington to quietly discuss the matter without disclosing speculative information.