American basketball star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in a Russian court last night. She now faces up to 10 years in a Russian jail.
“I’d like to plead guilty, your honour. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law.
“I’d like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare.”
Brittney Griner will return to court on July 14.
Russian customs officials arrested the two-time Olympic gold medallist at a Moscow airport in February. They claimed then that they found vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis in the basketball star’s luggage.
Her arrest on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted concerns the Russians intended to use the high-profile athlete as a hostage or bargaining chip.
Brittney Griner guilty but able to apply for clemency
Earlier in the week, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson addressed the media on Brittney Griner’s detention. The spokesperson stated she will be able to appeal the court’s verdict or apply for clemency.
“The court must first deliver its verdict, but no one is stopping Brittney Griner from making use of the appeal procedure and also from requesting clemency.”
However, the ministry spokesperson added that “attempts to present her case as though the American woman was illegally detained do not stand up to criticism.”
Media commentators predicted that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be unlikely to grant clemency to the basketball star. However, most thought he would take advantage of her imprisonment to use Brittney Griner as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the US.
On Wednesday, the White House confirmed that President Joe Biden spoke with Griner’s wife and is actively “working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible.”
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