After what a White House official called a “sham” trial, a Russian court upheld Brittney Griner’s 9-year sentence to a Russian prison colony on Tuesday.
In February, Griner was taken into custody at a Moscow airport after airport workers found vape canisters and cannabis oil in her bags. But people in the United States didn’t hear that she was being held until March. She admitted that she brought drugs into the country.
In August, a Russian court gave her a prison sentence of nine years. Several news sources said that Griner’s lawyer had asked for a suspended sentence in an appeal on Tuesday, but that they weren’t expecting “miracles.”
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the court’s decision means Griner will soon start serving her sentence unless the Biden administration can negotiate her release. Cherelle Griner, who is married to Griner, was worried about this possibility earlier this month.
“Once that hearing is held and the order is finalised … she could be moved to a labour camp,” Cherelle Griner said earlier this month. “My brain can’t even fathom it.”
Brittney Griner has been playing professionally in Russia since 2014. The White House has been trying for months to get her out of jail there. The WNBA player has a prescription for medical marijuana in Arizona, but it is against the law in Russia to have any amount of the drug. Experts say that the length of her sentence seems to be based on politics.
Concerns have also been raised about the harsh conditions in Russian prisons and how Griner, who is gay, will be treated in a country that is known for persecuting gay people.
Jake Sullivan, the White House’s National Security Advisor, said in a statement that Griner should be freed right away.
“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,” he said.
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