A Russian court has sentenced US basketball player Brittney Griner to nine years in prison for drug possession. The court said on Thursday in Chimki near Moscow that you committed the crime knowingly.

A fine of one million rubles (16,000 euros) was also imposed. The public prosecutor had previously demanded nine and a half years in prison. The requirement is just under the maximum sentence of ten years.

When asked, Griner said she understood the verdict. Her defense announced an appeal, but did not rule out a plea for clemency. The athlete is doing badly, said Griner’s lawyer Maria Blagowolina.

Blagowolina demanded acquittal in vain. In previous cases, a completed trial was the basis for Moscow to be released or exchanged.

Griner has been in custody for five and a half months. The athlete is said to have had cartridges for e-cigarettes with hash oil with her when her luggage was checked in Sheremetyevo in February. It is said to have been 0.5 grams. This was ruled as illegal drug possession and attempted smuggling as marijuana is banned in Russia.

The athlete had been prescribed hash oil in the USA to relieve pain from chronic injuries. However, the Russian court saw no mitigating circumstances. Griner has pleaded guilty.

The process has long had a political component: Washington accuses Moscow of a politically motivated process. US President Joe Biden criticized the conviction and called for Griner’s release.

“Russia is wrongly holding Brittney,” he said in a written statement. “This is unacceptable and I call on Russia to release her immediately to be with her wife, family, friends and teammates.” The US government continues to work tirelessly to get Griner safely home as soon as possible bring.

In early July, Biden Griner’s wife Cherelle Griner promised help in a phone call. The 31-year-old could be released if Moscow and Washington, despite their deep differences, agree on an exchange of prisoners.

A phone call between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian colleague Sergey Lavrov also discussed the possibility of a prisoner exchange, with the help of which the athlete should be released.

In addition to Griner, it is about the US citizen Paul Wheelan. He was arrested in Russia in 2018 and sentenced to a long prison term for alleged espionage.

Moscow, on the other hand, has been demanding the extradition of former Soviet officer Viktor Bout (Russian: But) for years. He is said to have illegally equipped regimes and rebels in numerous countries with weapons. The Russian, notorious as the “dealer of death”, is imprisoned as an arms dealer in the USA.

Since 2015, Griner has played for the UMMC Yekaterinburg team in the Urals. She won the Euroleague four times with the top club. Griner is considered one of the best basketball players in the American women’s professional league WNBA.

With the Phoenix Mercury she won the championship in 2014, with the US national team she won two gold medals at the World Championships in addition to two Olympic victories.