Brittney Griner’s appeal rejected by Russian court

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

The basketball star has been jailed since her arrest on February 17, after she was 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 US government characterizes her arrest as “wrongful detention.”

As Brittney Griner turns 32 in prison, ‘#WeAreBG’ reminds of her condition.

Griner appeared in court via video link from custody outside Moscow on Tuesday. Her lawyers asked for a suspended sentence, while Russian prosecutors argued that 9½ years, just shy of the maximum of 10 years, was fair. Griner’s attorneys earlier said she did not expect “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 contrary to current court practice.”

Griner addressed the court through a translator. “I want to apologize for this mistake,” he said. “I did not intend to do this, but I understand the charges brought against me,” adding that she hoped her guilty plea would be considered.

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

Brittney Griner may end up in a Russian penal colony. 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 have brought to light the abuse of prisoners in such facilities.

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

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One route to resolving his situation—and that of Paul Whelan, a former US Marine imprisoned in Russia as well—could be a prisoner exchange. Griner’s biggest fear is that she will not be exchanged and that she 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 is making every effort to bring Brittney home as well as support and advocate for other Americans being held in Russia, including wrongfully imprisoned Paul Whelan,” Sullivan said.

Russia wants Viktor Bout back, badly. The question is: Why?

In August, Russia acknowledged for the first time that talks were underway to release Griner and Whelan, but did not confirm media reports indicating a possible exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence 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 February 17 trying to enter Russia at Sheremetyevo International Airport, near Moscow, where she plays in during the WNBA short season. It turned 32 weeks ago while in prison, an occasion when family and friends used to call for her release and safe return to the United States.

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As Brittney Griner turns 32 in prison, ‘#WeAreBG’ reminds of her condition.

Tuesday’s ruling followed a Moscow court’s decision on Monday to reject an appeal by Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who sought to overturn approval of his detention from trial. He has been accused of spreading false information, following criticism of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

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

“This was the most disturbing phone call I have ever experienced,” said Cherelle Griner. “You could hear she wasn’t right.”

Annabelle Timsit contributed to this report.

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