Russia: appeal rejected, 9 years to US basketball player Griner – Europe

The last, dramatic appeal of the accused to the judges was not enough to reduce a “traumatic” sentence. A Moscow region appeals court upheld the nine-year prison sentence for American basketball star Brittney Griner, who has been jailed in Russia since February after being found in possession of a small amount of hash oil. Another “farce trial”, the US has called it, believing that the two-time Olympic champion is simply a pawn that Russia intends to use for an exchange of prisoners. “I hope the Court changes this ruling because she was very, very stressful and very traumatic,” said the basketball player speaking by videoconference at the hearing. A request that went unheeded. At this point, long years of detention await the athlete, arrested in February upon her arrival at Moscow’s Sheremetevo airport for having been found in possession of 0.72 grams of hashish oil contained in some liquid charges for electronic cigarettes. A substance that the basketball player had told her to take for therapeutic purposes. The only hope she has left of being able to be free again more quickly is to re-enter an exchange of prisoners between Russia and the United States, which she has been talking about for some time. US President Joe Biden “has shown that he wants to do his utmost and make difficult decisions to bring the Americans home” detained in Russia, assured National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, while judging that a “mock trial” against him. of Griner. Already last August, the White House said it had made a “substantial offer” to Moscow that would allow former Marine Paul Whelan, arrested in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison, to return home, in addition to the basketball player. for espionage. In exchange, Washington could consider the release of Victor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence in the US. Moscow said it was in favor of an exchange, but asked that the negotiations continue in a strictly confidential form. The negotiations could become more complicated after the recent arrest at Malpensa, on an international mandate from the American judiciary, of the Russian entrepreneur Artem Uss, son of the governor of the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk, and of his partner Yury Orekhov in Germany. The US is demanding the extradition of the two, accusing them, among other things, of smuggling military technologies from the United States to Russia, avoiding American sanctions and money laundering for millions of dollars. It is therefore a difficult negotiation on which the fate of Brittney Griner, top player of the Phoenix Mercury, who had arrived in Russia to play in the national championship in the ranks of a team from Ekaterinburg during the break of the American Wnba championship depends. Last week the American athlete turned 32. “It is tragic – said the US charge d’affaires in Moscow, Elizabeth Rood – that she had to spend her birthday in a Russian prison instead of at home with her family or on a basketball court with her friends. teammates”.