Russian court rejects Brittney Griner’s appeal of 9-year sentence

A Moscow court on Tuesday rejected Brittney Griner’s appeal against her nine-year sentence on drug-related charges, a fully expected outcome in a trial US and international officials have described as an illegitimate trial.

US officials have said they believe Russia will eventually send the WNBA star home in a prisoner swap, but have expressed frustration at what they say about Russia not responding to the “significant” offer from the United States responded in June.

“We are aware of the news from Russia that Brittney Griner continues to be unjustly detained in intolerable circumstances after undergoing another mock trial today,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

Griner took part in the hearing of the Moscow regional court via video conference.

In the ruling, the court noted that the time Griner has to serve in prison will be recalculated taking into account her time on remand, meaning Griner will serve approximately eight years in prison.

The result was “not what we expected,” Griner’s attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said in a statement. “There are numerous flaws in the judgment and we hoped that the Court of Appeal would take them into account.

“This appeal is further evidence that BG is not just wrongly imprisoned,” the WNBA Players Association said in a statement. “She’s clearly a hostage.”

The attorneys noted that they would need to discuss further appeals with Griner, but said, “We generally believe that we must use all available legal tools.”

Several officials have said in recent weeks that they believe Russia will not engage in serious negotiations until after the Nov. 8 US midterm elections, as they do not want to hand the Biden administration a political victory.

For Griner, who has been held for more than eight months, her immediate concern is how quickly she will be transferred to one of Russia’s notorious penal colonies. She was sentenced to a single term, but remained in a relatively safer Moscow jail pending appeal.

Blagovolina told ESPN last week that it can take weeks or months to move a prisoner; there is no statutory schedule. Legal experts say Griner is at the whim and mercy of the Russian system, as she has been all along.

Griner was arrested on February 17 while trying to enter Russia to join her club team in Ekaterinburg. Customs officials found vape cartridges containing hash oil, and she pleaded guilty in July, telling the court she accidentally bagged them.

US officials declared them unlawfully detained in May and began searching for a prisoner exchange with Russia for Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan, who has been held in Russia since December 2018.

Officials said the State Department offered to trade Viktor Bout, a convicted arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the United States. Bout has been in US custody since 2008. But officials said Russia has made no serious counter-offer, demanding the return of a man the United States does not have in custody, Vadim Krasikov, who is currently in a German jail on a murder conviction. Russian court rejects Brittney Griner’s appeal of 9-year sentence

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