A Russian court on Tuesday dismissed American WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal against a nine-year sentence for possession and smuggling of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.
Griner and his lawyers had sought an acquittal or at least a reduction in his sentence, which they consider disproportionate in relation to the crime and contrary to Russian judicial practice.
The president of the court said that the verdict remained “unchanged”, except for the computation of pretrial detention time as part of the sentence.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was detained on February 17 at a Moscow airport, a week before Russia sent troops to Ukraine, and her case has inevitably been seen against the backdrop of the ensuing crisis in relations between United States and Russia.
The US chargé d’affaires in Moscow, Elizabeth Rood, who attended the hearing, called the sentence “excessive and disproportionate”.
The state prosecutor said Griner’s 4 August sentence of nine years in a penal colony was “fair”, but Alexander Boykov, one of his lawyers, told the court:
“No judge, hand on heart, will honestly say that Griner’s nine-year sentence complies with Russian criminal law.”
Griner apologized for what he said was an honest mistake, just like at his original trial, saying, “I didn’t mean to,” and asked the court to take into account the fact that he had pleaded guilty.
She has said that she used medical cannabis to relieve pain from a number of sports injuries. Both recreational and medicinal use are prohibited in Russia.