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Brittney Griner news – update: WNBA star heads to penal colony where abuse, forced work common

The Russian court said that the remaining time the 32-year-old WNBA star must serve will be recalculated based on her pre-trial detention

Shweta Sharma,Johanna Chisholm,Graeme Massie
Wednesday 26 October 2022 22:10 BST
American basketball star Brittney Griner is detained in Russian airport

A Russian court has denied American basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal to reduce her prison sentence for drug possession.

Tuesday’s denial paves the way for Ms Griner to serve nine years in a prison colony, unless the US government is able to negotiate a deal for her release.

In her final statement delivered via video from a detention centre outside Moscow, Griner emphasised how mentally taxing her eight-month detention and two trials had been, adding: “I was barely over the significant amount [of cannabis oil] ... People with more severe crimes have gotten less than what I was given.”

“I did not intend to do this,” she closed, before asking the court to take into account the fact that she had pleaded guilty.

The White House immediately struck out at the verdict, calling it “another sham judicial proceeding” in a statement released Tuesday morning while the US Embassy in Moscow lamented that it was another “sad day for the rule of law in Russia”.

Lawyers for the 32-year-old said in a statement on Tuesday that it could be “up to a few months” before she is transferred to a penal colony, where she is expected to serve out the remainder of her sentence.


Welcome to our live coverage of Brittney Griner’s appeal hearing in a Russian court for Tuesday 25 October 2022.

Shweta Sharma25 October 2022 05:00

Brittney Griner to appear through video link at today’s hearing

Brittney Griner will appear in today’s hearing by video link from the detention centre where she is being held, her lawyers Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said.

The US Olympian will have her appeal against a nine-year prison sentence for drug possession heard.

Her lawyers are expecting a verdict the same day.

Shweta Sharma25 October 2022 05:27

What happened to WNBA star Brittney Griner and why is she detained in Russia?

WNBA star Brittney Griner, 31, has been detained in Russia since February after illegal cannibas oil was allegedly found in her luggage by officials at a Moscow airport.

Her detention occurred shortly before Russia launched its war in Ukraine, with geopolitical tensions making it undoubtedly more difficult to secure her release.

Ms Griner’s family, friends and fans – alongside many public figures – have been calling on Russia to free her for months and for the US State Department to intervene.

Read The Independent’s detailed report.

Why is WNBA star Brittney Griner detained in Russia?

The basketball icon has been detained in Moscow for five months and counting

Shweta Sharma25 October 2022 06:15

Griner says she does not expect any miracles but hopes for a reduced term

Ahead of her appeal in a Moscow court, the US basketball star has said that she does not have very high hopes on the outcome but hopes that the court will hear her defence arguments.

Griner is seeking a reduced term after she was sentenced to nine years in jail in a drug smuggling case.

“She is very nervous waiting for the appeal hearing,” her lawyers said in a statement.

“Brittney does not expect any miracles to happen but hopes that the appeal court will hear the arguments of the defence and reduce the term.”

Shweta Sharma25 October 2022 07:00

What outcomes are expected from Brittney Griner’s appeal hearing

WNBA star Brittney Griner has been locked up in Moscow for eight months and may face years of further incarceration if an upcoming appeal does not sway the Russian courts.

Griner is planning to appeal the nine-year prison sentence she was ordered to serve after a Russian court convicted her of smuggling and possessing prohibited substances.

The nine-year sentence was just shy of the 10-year maximum penalty for the crime, which Griner’s lawyers called “excessive.”

Her lawyers pointed out that the average sentence in cases like hers tend to be around five years, and about a third of the convicts serving time for those crimes are granted parole, according to ESPN.

Read Graig Graziosi’s report.

Shweta Sharma25 October 2022 07:45

Brittney Griner at ‘weakest moment’ in Russia, her wife said

Brittney Griner is at her “absolute weakest moment in life right now”, Griner’s wife said in an interview earlier this month.

Cherelle Griner told CBS News programme “This Morning” that her wife, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who was playing in Russia during the WNBA off-season, is afraid of being forgotten by the US.

“She’s very afraid about being left and forgotten in Russia, or just completely used to the point of her detriment,” Cherelle Griner said.

She said Brittney Griner told her in a phone call that she felt “like my life just doesn’t matter”.

“Like, y’all just don’t see the need to get me back home? Am I nothing?” Cherelle Griner quoted her wife as saying. It wasn’t clear when the call took place, though CBS aired its programme on 6 October.

Shweta Sharma25 October 2022 09:00

Three most likely outcomes from today’s hearing

After Brittney Griner’s lawyers present their arguments in court today for her to receive a reduced sentence, her team are anticipating three possible outcomes.

Alexander Boykov of the Moscow Legal Center and Maria Blagovolina, a partner at the Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners law firm, said the first outcome could be that the court does not change the original verdict. In that case, her sentence of nine years in a Russian penal colony would stand.

In a second possible outcome, the court could decide to overrule the sentence and send it back to the lower court for reconsideration.

Alternatively, the appeals court can unilaterally decide to reduce Griner’s prison term without referring the matter back to the original court that sentenced her.

Shweta Sharma25 October 2022 09:45

Griner appeal hearing start delayed

A court in Russia has delayed the start of Brittney Griner’s appeal hearing against her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession.

The hearing was scheduled to begin at 1pm local time (6am EST), but has been pushed back by two hours following a request from Griner’s lawyers.

Her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, requested the delay as they had been held up getting to the court.

The hearing will now begin at 3pm local time (8am EST).

Shweta Sharma25 October 2022 10:36

Griner pictured as she awaits delayed appeal hearing

Brittney Griner is taking part in the session held at the Moscow Regional Court via video call from a detention centre where she is held.

She was pictured caged in her prison cell in the first images of her during the hearing.

The hearing was adjourned by two hours following Griner’s lawyers' request
The hearing was adjourned by two hours following Griner’s lawyers' request (REUTERS)
US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony in August for drug smuggling, is seen on a screen via a video link from a remand prison before a court hearing
US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony in August for drug smuggling, is seen on a screen via a video link from a remand prison before a court hearing (AFP via Getty Images)
Shweta Sharma25 October 2022 10:47

Brittany Griner could be moved to infamous penal colony if US is not able to secure her return

Brittany Griner will be transferred to a Russian penal colony if the court upholds her nine-year prison sentence today, and the US is unsuccessful in striking a deal for a prisoner swap.

Her lawyers said if the Khimki city court’s decision is upheld, the “legal process will be basically over”.

The US State Department has said that Griner is “wrongfully detained” and the Biden administration said it is negotiating a deal with Russia to free the WNBA star.

Her wife Cherelle Griner has expressed fears over the possibility, saying: “My brain can’t even fathom it,” in an interview to CBS.

Russia’s prison colony network has at least 650 penal institutions that are barrack and dorm-style detention camps - and have the reputation of being some of the worst detention camps in the world.

The inhabitants carry out hard labour once they reach there by a train journey that can last more than a month, and communication with the prisoner is almost invariably unstable.

A report by the US Department of State found that overcrowding, poor sanitation and heating, and food shortages are some of the major problems at the camps along with reports of systemic abuses, such as torture and sexual violence.

Shweta Sharma25 October 2022 11:00

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