WNBA Star Brittney Griner Sentence to Nine Years in a Russian Penal Colony Upheld

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Brittney Griner, the WNBA All-Star who is imprisoned in Russia, is living her worst nightmare. 

Arrested in February 2021 for cannabis oil and vaping canisters found in her suitcase in a Moscow airport, Griner was found guilty and sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony. The appeal of that decision has failed. 

Reversing Russian court legal decisions is said to be close to impossible, and now the only hope for Griner is if there is a prisoner swap, which the US State Department and Russian officials have been discussing. 

Alexander Boykov, one of Griner’s lawyers, is hoping for this outcome.

The 32-year-old, two-time Olympic gold medalist pleaded guilty to her charges in a Russian court last July. 

Medical cannabis is illegal in Russia but is allowed to be used as prescribed in most US states. Griner had a prescription for the drug due to chronic pain, her defense team said. According to Griner, she accidentally brought it in her hurry to pack for her flight. 

Brittany’s wife, Cherelle Griner, said that she was not sure whether her partner will be able to cope in prison without her family and loved ones. Griner, despite the stress and trauma, had hoped for a better outcome before the results of the appeal were out. “People with more severe crimes have gotten less than what I was given,” she shared.

American national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that Griner was being held under “intolerable circumstances” and that she was a victim of a “sham judicial proceeding.” 

President Biden said that despite the lack of positive replies, they are communicating with Russian authorities to address the issue and do a swap of prisoners to secure Griner’s release.

In discussions, the US State Department has reportedly offered to swap Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for the return of Griner and Paul Whelan, another American held in Russia.

Because of the tensions between the US and Russia, and the war in Ukraine, Russia appears to have the upper hand and Griner has been caught in the crossfire. 

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