Brittney Griner’s appeal rejected by Russian court

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A Russian court has rejected American basketball player Brittney Griner’s appeal against a more than nine-year prison sentence on drug charges.

The basketball star was jailed after being arrested on February 17, after she allegedly entered Russia with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. Illegal in Russia. Her lawyers said it was prescribed as part of treatment for chronic pain and other conditions.

The US government describes her arrest as “wrongful detention”.

As Brittney Griner turns 32 while incarcerated, ‘#WeAreBG’ remembers her ordeal

Griner appeared in court via video link from a detention center outside Moscow on Tuesday. Her lawyers asked for a suspended sentence, while Russian prosecutors said 9½ years, just shy of the 10-year maximum, was fair. Griner’s attorneys previously said she was not expecting “miracles.”

Griner’s lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a statement, “We are very disappointed. We still think the sentence is excessive and contrary to existing judicial practice.”

Griner addressed the court through an interpreter. “I want to apologize for this mistake,” she said. “I didn’t mean to do this, but I understand the charges against me,” she said, adding that she hoped her guilty plea would be taken into account.

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Griner’s attorneys They said they were discussing the possibility of further appeals with their client and that they intended to use “all available legal tools”. After the appeal process is over, she will be transferred to a penal colony.

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

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

The White House condemned the court’s decision on Tuesday. “We are aware of news from Russia that Brittney Griner continues to be wrongfully detained in intolerable conditions after undergoing yet another sham trial today,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “President Biden has been very clear that Britney must be released immediately.”

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One way to resolve her situation — and that of Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine imprisoned in Russia — could be a prisoner exchange. Griner’s biggest fear is that she won’t be traded and will have to serve the full sentence in Russia.

“In recent weeks, the Biden-Harris administration has continued to engage with Russia through every channel available and make every effort to bring Britney home, as well as support and advocate for other Americans held in Russia, including fellow wrongful detainee Paul Whelan.” Sullivan said.

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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 potential exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence in the United States.

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

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As Brittney Griner turns 32 while incarcerated, ‘#WeAreBG’ remembers her ordeal

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

Griner’s wife, Cherelle, told CBS Mornings co-host Gayle King in an interview on Oct. 6 said she was able to talk to the basketball star twice on the phone from prison, and that the second phone call was “disturbing.” She was in tears for days.

“It was the most annoying phone call I’ve ever had,” Cherelle Griner said. “You can hear she’s not well.”

Annabelle Timsitt contributed to this report.

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