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Griner Was Sentenced and Sent to a Russian Prison Camp
According to her legal team, American basketball player Brittney Griner has been sentenced to serve her time in a Russian correctional colony for drug possession. Her nine-year sentence was upheld by a Russian court last month.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist and eight-time all-star center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury were found guilty on August 4 after police claimed they discovered marijuana oil-infused vape cartridges in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.
Days before Russia moved soldiers into Ukraine, tensions between Moscow and Washington were at an all-time high. Her detention coincided with this period of increased tension, and the politically charged case may result in a risky prisoner swap between the two countries.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated that “every minute that Brittney Griner must endure unjustified incarceration in Russia is a minute too long.” “As we have already stated, the U.S. Government made a major offer to the Russians to end the ongoing unjustified and reprehensible incarceration of American people.”
Today my thoughts are w/ Brittney Griner & her family. The U.S. must have unwavering resolve in condemning her wrongful detention & sentence. We will keep fighting for the release of Brittney & other Americans being unjustly detained abroad. https://t.co/F1mft0ZiZD
— Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (@SenatorShaheen) November 9, 2022
According to Griner’s legal team, she left a detention facility outside of Moscow for a criminal colony on November 4 (a jail in Russia is referred to as a penal colony). Given that she lost her appeal, the action was anticipated.
Kremlin: Any discussions regarding the Griner swap must remain private. Brittney Griner’s wife claims that the Russian court rejected Griner’s appeal of her nine-year sentence, setting the appeal date for October 25.
Such transfers might take days or even weeks, during which time the prisoner’s loved ones and attorneys are typically cut off from communication. Even if she arrives, getting to Griner might be challenging because so many prisons in Russia are located in outlying regions.
Her attorneys claimed on Wednesday that they were unsure of her particular location and final destination but anticipated learning about it once she arrived. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Russian authorities grant the embassy regular access to Griner as they are required to do in a statement that emphasized the efforts being made to obtain Griner’s release. Last week, representatives from the American embassy in Moscow came to Griner.
Brittney Griner has been sent to a penal colony in Russia but her lawyers said Wednesday that they did not know exactly where she was or where she would end up. https://t.co/kxPtqIRPBt
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 9, 2022
Due to the sensitivity of the situation, a senior State Department official told reporters that the Russians had not informed American diplomats in advance of Griner’s relocation and had not yet responded to inquiries from the American embassy regarding her present location or final destination.
Prisoners work for little compensation in numerous penal colonies, and dissidents and other nations have criticized the treatment of people who are detained there. Alexei Navalny, a jailed leader of the Russian opposition, went on a hunger strike to protest his treatment, especially the fact that authorities wouldn’t give him the proper medications or let his doctor see him in custody.
He also objected to the nightly hourly checks a guard performs on him, claiming they amount to torture by depriving him of sleep. Griner, 32, has acknowledged having the canisters in her suitcase after being stopped while traveling back to play for a Russian team during the WNBA’s summer. She claimed, however, that she had packed them accidentally while rushing and had no malicious purpose. Her defense team provided formal confirmation that she had received a cannabis prescription for pain relief.
According to the Associated Press and other news agencies, Washington has proposed exchanging Viktor Bout for Griner and Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage. Russian arms dealer Bout, formerly known as the “merchant of death,” is currently serving a 25-year term in the United States.