Brittney Griner’s appeal rejected by Russian court


A Russian court rejected US basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal against her more than nine-year prison sentence on drug charges on Tuesday.

The basketball star has been in jail since her arrest on February 17, after being accused of entering Russia with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia. Her lawyers said it was prescribed as part of treatment for chronic pain and other conditions.

The United States government has characterized her arrest as “unjust detention”.

With Brittney Griner 32 years in prison, ‘#WeAreBG’ reminds us of her situation

Griner appeared in court via video link from detention outside Moscow on Tuesday. Her lawyers asked for a suspended sentence, and Russian prosecutors have argued that 9½ years, just shy of the maximum of 10 years, is fair. Griner’s lawyers earlier said she wasn’t expecting “miracles.”

“We are very disappointed,” Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, Griner’s attorneys, said in a statement. “We still think the penalty is excessive and runs counter to current court practice.”

Griner spoke to the court through an interpreter. “I want to apologize for this mistake,” she said. “It was not my intention to do this, but I understand the charges brought against me,” adding that she hoped her guilty pleas would be taken into account.

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Griner Attorneys They said they would consult with their client about the possibility of a further appeal, and intended to use “all available legal tools”. Once the appeal process is over, he is ready to be transferred to a penal colony.

Brittney Griner may go to a penal colony in Russia. Here’s what you need to know.

Russia has one of the highest incarceration rates in Europe. Most of its prison facilities are known as penal colonies, where prisoners are required to perform labor. Investigations by Russian media outlets have brought to light the abuse of prisoners in such facilities.

The White House criticized the court’s decision on Tuesday. “We are aware of the news out of Russia that Brittney Griner will continue to be wrongfully detained under unacceptable circumstances after undergoing yet another sham judicial proceeding today,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “President Biden has been very clear that Brittney should be released immediately.”

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One way to resolve her case – and that of Paul Whelan, a former US Marine who was also imprisoned in Russia – could be a prisoner exchange. Griner’s biggest fear is that she is not exchanged and will have to serve the entire sentence in Russia, her lawyers said.

“In recent weeks, the Biden-Harris Administration has continued to engage with Russia through every available channel and make every effort to bring Brittney home as well as support and advocate for other Americans who are detention in Russia, including the wrongful detention of Paul Whelan,” Sullivan said.

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In August, Russia admitted for the first time that negotiations were under way to release Griner and Whelan, but did not confirm media reports suggesting a possible swap for Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer who he is sentenced to 25 years in the United States.

Griner, a 6-foot-9 center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was detained on Feb. 17 trying to enter Russia at Sheremetyevo International Airport, near Moscow, where she plays during the WNBA season. She turned 32 weeks ago while in prison, an event that family and friends used to call for her release and safe return to the United States.

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With Brittney Griner 32 years in prison, ‘#WeAreBG’ reminds us of her situation

Tuesday’s ruling followed a Moscow court decision Monday to reject an appeal by Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who sought to overturn a pre-trial detention permit. He has been accused of spreading false information, after criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Griner’s wife, Cherelle, said in an Oct. 6 interview with CBS Mornings co-host Gayle King that she has been able to speak with the basketball star twice on the phone since she was incarcerated, and that the second phone call was ” disturbing,” leaving her in tears for days.

“It was the most disturbing phone call I’ve ever experienced,” said Cherelle Griner. “You could hear she wasn’t well.”

Annabelle Timsit contributed to this report.


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