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Russian court rejects Brittney Griner's appeal

October 25, 2022

Griner was arrested on February 17 with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is banned in Russia. She has been sentenced to nine years in a penal colony.

Brittney Griner appeals her sentence via video link
Griner is facing a 9-year prison sentenceImage: Vyacheslav Prokofyev/dpa/picture alliance

A Russian court on Tuesday rejected US basketball star Brittney Griner's appeal against a nine-year prison sentence.
A court in the city of Krasnogorsk, located immediately northwest of Moscow, ruled to leave the verdict "without change".

Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

Why was Brittney Griner arrested?

Griner was arrested on February 17 at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. The substance is banned in Russia.

She was sentenced on August 4 to nine years in a penal colony for possession and smuggling of drugs.

The court that handed Griner her 9-year sentence found that she had committed the crime "deliberately." Griner had pleaded guilty, while maintaining in her testimony that it was an "honest mistake" and that she had packed "in a rush."

Her defense team presented statements saying she had been prescribed the cannabis oil to treat pain. It also argued that the 9-year term was excessive, saying that in similar cases defendants have received an average sentence of about five years.

Washington slams 'sham' proceeding

US officials have said that Griner was "wrongfully detained," an accusation denied by Moscow. The basketball star's arrest came just days before the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

On Tuesday, the White House slammed what it called a "sham" court proceeding that saw Griner's appeal rejected.

"We are aware of the news out of Russia that Brittney Griner will continue to be wrongfully detained under intolerable circumstances after having to undergo another sham judicial proceeding today," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.

Sullivan said that US President Joe Biden insists Griner should be "released immediately" and stressed that Washington is "willing to go to extraordinary lengths and make tough decisions to bring America home."

Last month, Biden met with Griner's wife Cherelle  and called the verdict "unacceptable."  He said that his administration was doing "everything that we can" to push for her release.

In July, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed that Washington had made a "substantial proposal to get Griner home. The White House said that it has yet to receive a producitve response from Russia, while Russian officials have urged the US to discuss the matter in confidential talks.

Washington has also called for the release of former US marine Paul Whelan, who was accused of espionage and handed a 16-year jail term in 2020.

sdi/aw (AFP, AP, Reuters)