Brittney Griner reportedly lost her appeal hearing after a Russian court upheld her nine-year sentence for drug smuggling, per multiple reports. Griner can be sent to a penal colony unless the U.S. and Russian governments negotiate a deal for her release.
According to multiple reports, Griner appeared via video leak from her detention center on Sunday. A three-judge panel of the appeal court in Krasnogorsk, located outside of Moscow, made the decision.
“Brittney is a very strong person and has a champion’s character,” her lawyers said in a statement Monday, per The New York Times. “She, of course, has her highs and lows as she is severely stressed being separated from her loved ones for over eight months.”
Griner has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17 after authorities at a Moscow-area airport said they found hashish (cannabis) oil in vape cartridges within her luggage. Hashish oil is an illegal substance in Russia, and possession carries a hefty penalty, as we see it is the case with Griner.
BG played overseas during the WNBA offseason and returned to Russia in February to join UMMC Ekaterinburg, her Euroleague Russian team, after a FIBA break. Griner’s sentencing and treatment have drawn criticism and concern from WNBA players who play overseas to supplement their WNBA salary.
After her arrest for illegally possessing less than one gram of the hashish oil, Griner was reportedly investigated for the “large-scale transportation of drugs and went on trial in July. Griner eventually pled guilty to the charges and told a judge she unintentionally packed the cannabis oil while rushing in preparation for leaving Russia. Griner’s legal team said that a doctor prescribed cannabis to her for chronic pain, and medical marijuana is legal in Phoenix.
On Aug. 4, a Russian court found Griner guilty of drug smuggling and illegal possession and sentenced her to nine years in prison. The U.S. state department and White House have opened up negotiations for a prisoner exchange ever since. Earlier this month, the White House said it sent “a substantial offer” on the table and urged Russian authorities to accept it or “bring a strong counteroffer.”
The deal includes a swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner and Paul Whelan, another American arrested and convicted on espionage charges. Whelan was given a 16 years prison sentence in 2020 but has repeatedly denied the charges and asserted his innocence.
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