Brittney Griner To Spend 9 Years In Russian Penal Colony After Court Rejects Appeal

WNBA star and American citizen Brittney Griner will continue to serve her nine-year sentence in a Russian jail after a court in Moscow denied her appeal over a drugs conviction, WSJ reported. 

Griner's lawyers told NYTimes before the appeal on Tuesday that she did "not expect any miracles to happen" but was optimistic that the appeals court's three-judge panel would reduce her sentence. 

Griner, 31, wasn't in court but participated in the proceedings via video from Correctional Colony No. 1 in Novoye Grishino, north of Moscow. 

Source: AP News

The denial of Griner's appeal over her drug smuggling conviction sentence could pave the way for the Biden administration to get further involved in negotiating a deal for her release. In July, Biden officials offered a prisoner swap for Griner, though Russian officials said it was premature to discuss such things. 

On Monday, Griner's lawyers released this statement:

"Brittney is a very strong person and has a champion's character.

"She of course has her highs and lows as she is severely stressed being separated from her loved ones for over eight months."

One of her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina, told Reuters that her client's "punishment doesn't correspond to the gravity of the crime." 

The WNBA's Phoenix Mercury basketball star and a two-time Olympic gold medalist was arrested in early February in Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport for "smuggling" two vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. Griner admitted her guilt in court but insisted that she had no intention to break the law. She told the court that she had made "an honest mistake."

"There was no intent in her actions … The substance was used for medical purposes," Blagovolina said. 

Today's decision suggests further diplomatic talks between the Washington and Moscow are likely but could be very complicated due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. 

Griner's wife, Cherelle, met with President Biden last month. Cherelle said Biden was committed to bringing her wife home. 

"It wasn't a meeting where the President told me the news that I want to hear," Cherelle told CNN. "It wasn't that, but it was one of those still pivotal meetings where … it allowed me to have confidence in what he's doing right now."

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan responded to the court decision to uphold Griner's drug smuggling conviction, calling it a "sham:" 

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.

President Biden has been very clear that Brittney should be released immediately. In recent weeks, the Biden-Harris 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.

The President has demonstrated that he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths and make tough decisions to bring Americans home, as his Administration has done successfully from countries around the world. The Administration remains in regular touch with representatives of the families, and we continue to admire their courage in the face of these unimaginable circumstances.

Griner's best hopes of returning Stateside are now in the hands of the Biden administration. 

(Article by Tyler Durden republished from Zerohedge.com)

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