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Joe Biden condemns Griner sentence, calls for ‘immediate release’

A Russian court has found US basketball star Brittney Griner guilty of drug smuggling, and sentenced her to nine years in prison in a ruling US President Joe Biden called “unacceptable”.

The court “found the defendant guilty” of smuggling and possessing “a significant amount of narcotics”, Judge Anna Sotnikova told a court in the town of Khimki just outside Moscow. The player was also fined one million rubles ($16,300).

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star, was escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs by police after the verdict, turning to reporters and saying: “I love my family”.

Biden condemned the verdict and reiterated calls for the 31-year-old’s release.

“My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible,” he said, referring to another American imprisoned in Russia on an espionage conviction.

National security spokesperson John Kirby later on Thursday urged Russia to accept a “serious proposal” Washington made weeks ago for Griner’s release.

The US has proposed a US-Russia prisoner swap that would include the athlete and Viktor Bout, an imprisoned Russian who was once a prolific arms dealer.

Also read; Brittney Griner detainment, WNBA reaction, U.S response

Also read: Brittney Griner: US makes offer to Russia

Editing by Omotola Oguneye