Biden: Griner Sentence 'Unacceptable'

President calls on Russia to release the WNBA star immediately
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 4, 2022 1:14 PM CDT
Biden: Griner Sentence 'Unacceptable'
Brittney Griner listens to the verdict in a courtroom in Khimki, Russia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022.   (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP)

(Newser) – The trial of WNBA star Brittney Griner in Russia ended pretty much the way everyone expected it would on Thursday—with a guilty verdict and a nine-year sentence in a penal colony. Afterward, President Biden denounced the sentence on drug charges. "It's unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates," the president said, per CNN. He added that his administration would "pursue every possible avenue" to bring her and another American prisoner, Paul Whelan, home.

As the New York Times notes, the guilty verdict will intensify speculation about a prisoner swap, perhaps involving Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was convicted in this country in 2011. Griner's agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, tweeted Thursday that the sentence proves Griner "is being used as a political pawn." The athlete's attorneys in Russia promised a quick appeal, with the hope of at least getting a shorter sentence, and they did not rule out the possibility of a direct appeal to Vladimir Putin, reports the Wall Street Journal. (Read more Brittney Griner stories.)

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