Russian prosecutor wants 9.5 years for Griner
The state prosecutor in the Russian drugs trial of Brittney Griner has requested a period of nine years and six months in jail for the American women's basketball star.
The demand came as the two sides gave their closing remarks at Khimki City Court just outside Moscow on Thursday.
“I ask you to appoint nine years and six months in prison with a sentence in a general regime colony with a fine of 1 million rubles ($16,500),” the state prosecutor was quoted as requesting to the judge, according to RIA.
Speaking through an interpreter, Griner made her own closing remarks, using the opportunity to apologize and said she had made “an honest mistake under stress.”
“I never meant to hurt anybody, to put in jeopardy the Russian population or violate any Russian laws,” Griner added, noting that she also wanted to distance herself from the political furor surrounding her case.
A verdict is expected on Thursday evening local time, and the maximum conviction for the charges is up to 10 years in prison.
Griner, 31, has been detained in Russia since February 17, after banned hashish oil vape cartridges were found in her luggage at Sheremetyevo Airport on the outskirts of the Russian capital.
The two-time Olympic champion has pleaded guilty in her case, but said the cartridges ended up in her luggage unintentionally.
Griner was traveling to Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason in her homeland – a move she has made for the past several years.
Her case has drawn widespread attention in the US, with the authorities classifying Griner as "wrongfully detained."
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed last month that Washington had made Moscow a “substantial offer” for the release of Griner and fellow American Paul Whelan, a former Marine who has been convicted of espionage charges in Russia.
Reports had claimed that a swap deal could be made with Russian businessman Viktor Bout, who is serving 25 years in a US prison for arms dealing.
However, CNN later said Moscow wants Vadim Krasikov, a Russian national convicted of murder in Germany last year, to be included in a potential prisoner exchange.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke to Blinken last week after a request from Washington, officials in Moscow confirmed.
The Russian authorities have consistently denied that Griner's case is politically motivated, pointing out that she must be subject to Russian law and should not be treated as an exception simply because she is a foreigner.
Moscow has also urged quiet diplomacy through established channels, rather than grandstanding.
Griner's legal team have argued that she should be shown leniency in her case. Earlier in the trial the court was shown a certificate which said she had a prescription for medical use of cannabis in the US to combat pain from her injuries.
Griner plays for American team the Phoenix Mercury and is an eight-time WNBA All-Star. She is widely considered among the greatest female basketball players of all-time.