United States President Joe Biden said on Thursday, 4 Aug, that his administration will continue to work towards bringing the American basketball star Brittney Griner back to the US "as soon as possible."
Biden said that the guilty verdict and the nine-year prison sentence declared by a Russian court for Griner was "unacceptable" and asked for her immediate release, according to a White House press release.
The 31-year-old American basketball player was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison on Thursday, when she was found guilty of possession and smuggling of cannabis oil.
According to a report by Politico, US and Russia will now focus on the possibility of a prisoner swap proposed by the Biden administration. This prisoner swap would include both Griner and Paul Whelan, a former US Marine detained in 2018 under the charges of espionage.
This proposed prisoner trade would consist of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
The unconventionally quick verdict "further compounds the injustice of her wrongful detention" said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been discussing a proposal with his Russian counterpart last week, to return the American detainees home.
Terri Jackson, Executive Director of the Women's National Basketball Players Association called for the Biden administration to continue pushing for a deal with Russia to bring Griner back to the US.
"You need no formal meeting. We need a win. And we're counting on you to have that conversation, and begin to put these wheels in motion."Terri Jackson, Executive Director of Women's National Basketball Players Association, in an interview with MSNBC.
Griner made one last appeal to the Russian court prior to her verdict being announced. She reiterated that she had no intention of breaking the law by bringing in cartridges with cannabis oil when she was traveling to Moscow in February 2022 when she was going to play basketball in the city of Yekaterinburg.
Griner faced up to 10 years in prison according to Russian law, however, the prosecutors requested a nine-and-a-half year term.
(With inputs from Politico, The Associated Press, MSNBC, White House)