Brittney Griner: US basketballer ‘being moved to Russian penal colony’, say lawyers

Lawyers and family say they do not know where exactly Griner is being taken

Shweta Sharma
Wednesday 09 November 2022 12:21 GMT
Need2Know November 4, 2022

US basketball star Brittney Griner is in the process of being moved to a Russian penal colony, her legal team announced early on Wednesday in Moscow.

Griner’s lawyers said they were not immediately aware of the location where she is being taken.

Her legal team say they and the US Embassy in Moscow will only be informed after Griner’s arrival at her destination.

The WNBA star is headed to a penal colony to serve the remainder of her sentence after a Russian court denied her appeal to reduce her nine-year prison term for drug possession last month.

Griner’s attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a statement: “Brittney was transferred from the detention centre in Iksha on the 4th November. She is now on her way to a penal colony.

“We do not have any information on her exact current location or her final destination.”

It could take up to two weeks for them to receive formal notification of her whereabouts, which is normally given via email, the lawyers said.

The White House called on Russia to improve her treatment and the conditions she may be forced to endure in a penal colony.

Her agent, Lindsay Colas, raised concerns over Griner’s health and wellbeing, saying that “as we work through this very difficult phase of not knowing exactly where BG is or how she is doing, we ask for the public’s support in continuing to write letters and express their love and care for her”.

The legal team is in close contact with the US government to ensure her safety and continue to strive to bring her back, she added.

Wednesday’s prison transfer news is a development dreaded by the family, amid concerns about Russia’s infamous prison colony network has at least 650 penal institutions consisting of barrack and dorm-style detention camps. They have the reputation of being some of the worst detention camps in the world, with exceptionally harsh living conditions.

The eight-time all-star centre with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medallist was convicted on 4 August after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport back in February.

Griner and lawyers have argued that the quantity was “barely over the significant amount” and “people with more severe crimes have gotten less than” the sentence she was given.

She was handed a nine-year sentence, which was just shy of the 10-year maximum penalty for the crime.

Following the announcement by her lawyers, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Wednesday that the Biden administration is working tirelessly to end her “wrongful detention” in Russia.

“The President has directed the Administration to prevail on her Russian captors to improve her treatment and the conditions she may be forced to endure in a penal colony [sic],” she said.

The US government has made a significant offer to the Russian government to resolve the “unacceptable and wrongful detentions of American citizens”, the statement added, adding that their commitment to bring back Griner is “unwavering”.

On 25 October, a Russian court rejected her appeal to reduce a nine-year sentence despite her defence team outlying the many reasons why they believed the “excessively harsh” sentence should either be acquitted or, at the very least, reduced.

Griner was seen appearing through a video link, sitting inside a cell while dressed in a black and red lumberjack shirt.

During the hearing, she said: “This has been a very traumatic experience, waiting for this day, waiting for the first court day and getting nine years.”

“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.

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