Out basketball star and two-time Olympic gold medallist Brittney Griner has her appeal rejected
A Russian court has rejected an appeal by out US basketball star Brittney Griner against her nine-year prison sentence for possession and smuggling of drugs.
Griner and her lawyers had requested an acquittal or at least a reduction in her sentence, which they argued was disproportionate to the offence and at odds with Russia’s judicial practice.
But today (October 25), the court near Moscow upheld the sentence length, with the state prosecutor calling it “fair”.
Griner took part in the hearing via video call from a penal colony outside Moscow where she is imprisoned.
Griner, 31, admitted possessing cannabis oil, pleading guilty at her trial in July, but told the court she made an “honest mistake”.
“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” she told the court at the time.
On August 4, a Russian court convicted the athlete of smuggling and possessing narcotics and handed her close to the maximum sentence – which is ten years – recommended by prosecutors.
As Griner was being led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, sha could be seen mouthing: “I love my family.”
Statement from National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on the Continued Wrongful Detention of Brittney Grinerhttps://t.co/Y1DCQ80qfh pic.twitter.com/ynqcHXrdLt
— Erica P. Loewe (@EricaLoewe46) October 25, 2022
US government officials have called the decision ‘wrongful’, vowing that the White House will continue to engage with Russia to bring Griner home.
“We are aware of the news out of Russia that Brittney Griner will continue to be wrongfully detained under intolerable circumstances after having to undergo another sham judicial proceeding today,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.
The Biden administration “has continued to engage with Russia through every available channel and make every effort to bring home Brittney as well as to support and advocate for other Americans detained in Russia, including fellow wrongful detainee Paul Whelan,” Sullivan added.
The WNBA star is expected to be moved to a penal colony, where she’ll serve a nine-year prison sentence.
We previously shared reports that the Biden administration had proposed trading Griner, along with detained US citizen and former marine Paul Whelan, for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who has served 11 years of a 25-year sentence in the U.S.
Whelan was a corporate security director who was arrested in 2018 in Russia and is serving a 16-year sentence for allegedly spying.
Ahed of sentencing in August, Griner sent a hand written letter to US President Joe Biden, saying “please don’t forget about me”
Adding, “I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home,” Griner wrote.