KRASNOGORSK, Russia (CNN) – A Russian court rejected an appeal by U.S basketball star Brittney Griner against her nine-year prison sentence for possession and smuggling of drugs.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist was arrested in February at a Moscow airport with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is banned in Russia.
She was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony in August.
Griner took part in the Moscow Regional Court hearing via video call from a penal colony outside Moscow where she is imprisoned.
Griner’s February arrest came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, just days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine.
At the time, Griner was returning to Russia where she played during the U.S. league’s offseason.
Griner admitted she had the canisters in her luggage but testified she inadvertently packed them in haste and had no criminal intent. Her defense team presented written statements saying she had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain.
The nine-year sentence was close to the maximum of 10 years, and Griner’s lawyers argued after the conviction that the punishment was excessive. They said in similar cases defendants have received an average sentence of about five years, with about a third of them granted parole.
Before her conviction, the State Department declared Griner to be “wrongfully detained,” a charge that Russia has sharply rejected.
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