Brittney Griner sent to a Russian penal colony to serve her sentence

MOSCOW (AP) — American basketball star Brittney Griner was sent to a penal colony in Russia to serve her sentence for drug possession, her legal team announced on Wednesday.

A Russian court rejected an appeal of his nine-year sentence last month. The eight-time all-star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and two-time Olympic gold medalist was sentenced on August 4 after police said they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in his luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

His arrest came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, days before Russia sent troops to Ukraineand the politically charged affair could lead to a high stakes prisoner swap between Washington and Moscow.

“Every minute that Brittney Griner has to endure unjustified detention in Russia is a minute too long,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary. “As we have said before, the US government has made an important offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and unwarranted detentions of US citizens.”

Griner’s legal team said she left a detention center outside Moscow on November 4 for a penal colony – as prisons in Russia are commonly called. The move was expected since she lost her appeal.

Such transfers can take days or even weeks, during which time lawyers and relatives usually have no contact with the prisoner. Even after he arrives, access to Griner can be difficult as many penal colonies are in remote parts of Russia.

Her lawyers said on Wednesday they did not know exactly where she was or where she would end up – but expected to be told when she reached her final destination.

In a statement highlighting the work done to secure Griner’s release, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Russian authorities give the embassy regular access to Griner, as they are required to do. Officials of the United States Embassy in Moscow visited Griner Last week.

A senior State Department official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said the Russians did not inform US diplomats in advance of the Griner’s transfer and had yet to respond to questions from the U.S. Embassy about him. current location or final destination.

In many penal colonies, prisoners work for minimal pay, and dissidents and other countries have denounced the conditions of detention. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny imprisoned went on a hunger strike to protest his treatment, including the authorities’ refusal to give him the right medication and allow his doctor to visit him behind bars.

He also protested the time checks a guard performs on him at night, saying they amounted to sleep deprivation torture.

Griner, 32, who was arrested while returning to play for a Russian team during the WNBA offseason, admitted she had the canisters in her luggage. But she testified that she inadvertently hastily packed them and had no criminal intent. His defense team presented written statements that he was prescribed cannabis to treat the pain.

The Associated Press and other news organizations have reported that Washington has offered to trade Griner and Paul Whelan – an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage – for Victor Bout. Bout is a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence in the United States who has previously been dubbed the “dealer of death”.


Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Washington.


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