Brittney Griner news – update: WNBA star heads to penal colony where abuse, forced work common

A Russian court has denied American basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal to reduce her prison sentence for drug possession.

Tuesday’s denial paves the way for Ms Griner to serve nine years in a prison colony, unless the US government is able to negotiate a deal for her release.

In her final statement delivered via video from a detention centre outside Moscow, Griner emphasised how mentally taxing her eight-month detention and two trials had been, adding: “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.

The White House immediately struck out at the verdict, calling it “another sham judicial proceeding” in a statement released Tuesday morning while the US Embassy in Moscow lamented that it was another “sad day for the rule of law in Russia”.

Lawyers for the 32-year-old said in a statement on Tuesday that it could be “up to a few months” before she is transferred to a penal colony, where she is expected to serve out the remainder of her sentence.

Key Points

  • What’s next for Brittney Griner as she’s set to head to penal colony

  • Brittney Griner’s appeal rejected by Russian court

  • White House labels the verdict ‘another sham judicial proceeding'

  • Brittney Griner apologises for ‘mistake’ at appeal hearing

  • What happened to WNBA star Brittney Griner and why is she detained in Russia?

Tuesday 25 October 2022 05:00 , Shweta Sharma

Welcome to our live coverage of Brittney Griner’s appeal hearing in a Russian court for Tuesday 25 October 2022.

Brittney Griner to appear through video link at today’s hearing

Tuesday 25 October 2022 05:27 , Shweta Sharma

Brittney Griner will appear in today’s hearing by video link from the detention centre where she is being held, her lawyers Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said.

The US Olympian will have her appeal against a nine-year prison sentence for drug possession heard.

Her lawyers are expecting a verdict the same day.

What happened to WNBA star Brittney Griner and why is she detained in Russia?

Tuesday 25 October 2022 06:15 , Shweta Sharma

WNBA star Brittney Griner, 31, has been detained in Russia since February after illegal cannibas oil was allegedly found in her luggage by officials at a Moscow airport.

Her detention occurred shortly before Russia launched its war in Ukraine, with geopolitical tensions making it undoubtedly more difficult to secure her release.

Ms Griner’s family, friends and fans – alongside many public figures – have been calling on Russia to free her for months and for the US State Department to intervene.

Read The Independent’s detailed report.

Why is WNBA star Brittney Griner detained in Russia?

Griner says she does not expect any miracles but hopes for a reduced term

Tuesday 25 October 2022 07:00 , Shweta Sharma

Ahead of her appeal in a Moscow court, the US basketball star has said that she does not have very high hopes on the outcome but hopes that the court will hear her defence arguments.

Griner is seeking a reduced term after she was sentenced to nine years in jail in a drug smuggling case.

“She is very nervous waiting for the appeal hearing,” her lawyers said in a statement.

“Brittney does not expect any miracles to happen but hopes that the appeal court will hear the arguments of the defence and reduce the term.”

What outcomes are expected from Brittney Griner’s appeal hearing

Tuesday 25 October 2022 07:45 , Shweta Sharma

WNBA star Brittney Griner has been locked up in Moscow for eight months and may face years of further incarceration if an upcoming appeal does not sway the Russian courts.

Griner is planning to appeal the nine-year prison sentence she was ordered to serve after a Russian court convicted her of smuggling and possessing prohibited substances.

The nine-year sentence was just shy of the 10-year maximum penalty for the crime, which Griner’s lawyers called “excessive.”

Her lawyers pointed out that the average sentence in cases like hers tend to be around five years, and about a third of the convicts serving time for those crimes are granted parole, according to ESPN.

Read Graig Graziosi’s report.

When is Brittney Griner’s appeal hearing and what does it mean for WNBA star?

Brittney Griner at ‘weakest moment’ in Russia, her wife said

Tuesday 25 October 2022 09:00 , Shweta Sharma

Brittney Griner is at her “absolute weakest moment in life right now”, Griner’s wife said in an interview earlier this month.

Cherelle Griner told CBS News programme “This Morning” that her wife, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who was playing in Russia during the WNBA off-season, is afraid of being forgotten by the US.

“She’s very afraid about being left and forgotten in Russia, or just completely used to the point of her detriment,” Cherelle Griner said.

She said Brittney Griner told her in a phone call that she felt “like my life just doesn’t matter”.

“Like, y’all just don’t see the need to get me back home? Am I nothing?” Cherelle Griner quoted her wife as saying. It wasn’t clear when the call took place, though CBS aired its programme on 6 October.

 (AP)
(AP)

Three most likely outcomes from today’s hearing

Tuesday 25 October 2022 09:45 , Shweta Sharma

After Brittney Griner’s lawyers present their arguments in court today for her to receive a reduced sentence, her team are anticipating three possible outcomes.

Alexander Boykov of the Moscow Legal Center and Maria Blagovolina, a partner at the Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners law firm, said the first outcome could be that the court does not change the original verdict. In that case, her sentence of nine years in a Russian penal colony would stand.

In a second possible outcome, the court could decide to overrule the sentence and send it back to the lower court for reconsideration.

Alternatively, the appeals court can unilaterally decide to reduce Griner’s prison term without referring the matter back to the original court that sentenced her.

Griner appeal hearing start delayed

Tuesday 25 October 2022 10:36 , Shweta Sharma

A court in Russia has delayed the start of Brittney Griner’s appeal hearing against her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession.

The hearing was scheduled to begin at 1pm local time (6am EST), but has been pushed back by two hours following a request from Griner’s lawyers.

Her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, requested the delay as they had been held up getting to the court.

The hearing will now begin at 3pm local time (8am EST).

Griner pictured as she awaits delayed appeal hearing

Tuesday 25 October 2022 10:47 , Shweta Sharma

Brittney Griner is taking part in the session held at the Moscow Regional Court via video call from a detention centre where she is held.

She was pictured caged in her prison cell in the first images of her during the hearing.

The hearing was adjourned by two hours following Griner’s lawyers' request (REUTERS)
The hearing was adjourned by two hours following Griner’s lawyers' request (REUTERS)
US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony in August for drug smuggling, is seen on a screen via a video link from a remand prison before a court hearing (AFP via Getty Images)
US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony in August for drug smuggling, is seen on a screen via a video link from a remand prison before a court hearing (AFP via Getty Images)

Brittany Griner could be moved to infamous penal colony if US is not able to secure her return

Tuesday 25 October 2022 11:00 , Shweta Sharma

Brittany Griner will be transferred to a Russian penal colony if the court upholds her nine-year prison sentence today, and the US is unsuccessful in striking a deal for a prisoner swap.

Her lawyers said if the Khimki city court’s decision is upheld, the “legal process will be basically over”.

The US State Department has said that Griner is “wrongfully detained” and the Biden administration said it is negotiating a deal with Russia to free the WNBA star.

Her wife Cherelle Griner has expressed fears over the possibility, saying: “My brain can’t even fathom it,” in an interview to CBS.

Russia’s prison colony network has at least 650 penal institutions that are barrack and dorm-style detention camps - and have the reputation of being some of the worst detention camps in the world.

The inhabitants carry out hard labour once they reach there by a train journey that can last more than a month, and communication with the prisoner is almost invariably unstable.

A report by the US Department of State found that overcrowding, poor sanitation and heating, and food shortages are some of the major problems at the camps along with reports of systemic abuses, such as torture and sexual violence.

Russian court begins hearing Griner appeal

Tuesday 25 October 2022 11:34 , Johanna Chisholm

A Russian court began hearing an appeal by US WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner on Tuesday against her conviction and nine-year jail sentence for possession and smuggling of drugs. The court session began after a nearly two-hour adjournment requested by her lawyers.

Three judges were presiding over the appeals court in Krasnogorsk near Moscow, while Griner was taking part via video link from a detention centre in the town of Novoye Grishino, just outside Moscow.

Elizabeth Rood, the US chargee d'affaires in Moscow, was present at Tuesday's appeal hearing.

Griner appears ‘depleted’ while appearing via video in court

Tuesday 25 October 2022 12:05 , Johanna Chisholm

NBC reporter Molly Hunter shared a picture from the news outlet’s correspondent based in Moscow, who is attending the appeal hearing for WNBA star Brittney Griner on Tuesday.

“Our reporter in court, who has a closer view of Brittney Griner’s screen, says she’s looks particularly depleted today. Sad, tired. (Understandably.)” tweeted Ms Hunter, while sharing a picture of Ms Griner’s screen from inside the Russian courtroom.

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Griner’s defense debates pre-detention time served

Tuesday 25 October 2022 12:14 , Johanna Chisholm

As Brittney Griner reportedly vented her frustration about being unable to hear people in the courtroom as she appeared via a video link, asking them to speak louder, her defence team argued that the expert who analysed the cartridges that led to her arrest was “unqualified” and that there were procedural violations throughout the investigation and detention, NBC News reported.

“Defense team now arguing: Given the lack of intent and given Griner’s contribution to Russian sports, the Defense considers the punishment “excessively harsh.” Defense team asks to cancel the current sentence of nearly 9 years and hand down a new sentence,” tweeted Molly Hunter with NBC News.

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The foreign correspondent added that there was some confusion about pre-detention time served and how that time would be counted towards Ms Griner’s sentence.

“There’s debate over the exact length of sentencing - does 1 pre-detention day equal 1 full sentence day?” tweeted Ms Hunter. “No, apparently. Her 8 months of pre-detention counts for 12 months of her sentence. So everyone agrees the current sentence means she has 8 YEARS remaining.”

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Griner’s lawyers: Sentence doesn’t align with international or Russian legal norms

Tuesday 25 October 2022 12:33 , Johanna Chisholm

One of Brittney Griner’s lawyers, Alexander Boykov, argued while making an emotional and reportedly “personal” address to the court that the nine-year sentence that was handed down to the WNBA star in August not only doesn’t align with international law, but breaks from Russian “legal norms”.

“Defense lawyer Alexander Boykov speaking now, sounds emotional and personal, according to our reporter in court,” tweeted NBA reporter Molly Hunter. “Says he deeply sympathizes with Griner and argues that not only does the verdict not line up with int’l legal norms -- it’s also outside of Russian legal norms.”

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Lawyers argue Griner’s sentence ‘excessively harsh'

Tuesday 25 October 2022 12:35 , Johanna Chisholm

Brittney Griner’s defence team pushed back against the nine-year sentence that was handed down to the WNBA star this past summer, insisting that it was “excessive”.

“The punishment imposed on Griner does not correspond to the gravity of the crime,” Maria Blagovolina, one of Ms Griner’s lawyers, said on Tuesday in the Russian courtroom. “Nine years in prison is a sentence that contradicts judicial practice.”

“There was no intent in her actions ... The substance was used for medical purposes.”

Griner’s lawyers ask for acquittal or reduction in ‘cruel’ sentence

Tuesday 25 October 2022 12:55 , Johanna Chisholm

Brittney Griner’s lawyers asked the Russian courtroom where the WNBA star’s appeal was being heard for an acquittal or a reduction in the “cruel” nine-year sentence she received last August.

“The Defense team officially asks for an acquittal or reduced sentence,” tweeted NBC reporter Molly Hunter, who noted that the statement, all in Russian, was now being translated to Ms Griner, who had tuned in to the proceedings via a grainy video link.

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‘No athlete should be used as a political pawn’: Activists, supporters and WNBA union react to Griner’s rejection

Tuesday 25 October 2022 18:45 , Johanna Chisholm

Online commemorations and messages of support began pouring in in the hours after a Russian court upheld Brittney Griner’s nine-year prison sentence for drug possession, a charge that has seen the WNBA star held in a detention centre for the past eight months and will soon send her to one of the country’s harsh penal colonies.

“Brittney Griner’s appeal was denied. I can only imagine how scared and/or hopeless she must feel,” wrote American writer and professor Roxane Gay on Twitter.

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“We must continue to fight for Brittney Griner’s freedom,” tweeted activist Jamia Wilson

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This appeal is further verification that BG is not just wrongfully detained - she is very clearly a hostage,” wrote the WNBPA, the union representing players in the WNBA, in a statement on Tuesday. “No athlete should be used as a political pawn.”

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US Secretary of State says securing Griner’s release is US priority

Tuesday 25 October 2022 19:05 , Johanna Chisholm

US Secretary of State had strong words for Russia after a Moscow court upheld the decision to sentence WNBA star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison for a charge of drug possession, which the Biden official characterised as “another failure of justice”.

“Today’s denial of appeal for Brittney Griner is another failure of justice, compounding the injustice of her detention,” tweeted Anthony Blinken on Tuesday. “Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney, and nothing about her conviction or the denial of this appeal changes that. Securing her release is our priority.”

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Dawn Staley, Griner’s former Olympic coach, accuses Russia of using WNBA star as ‘political pawn'

Tuesday 25 October 2022 19:35 , Johanna Chisholm

Brittney Griner’s former Olympic coach and friend Dawn Staley reacted to the 32-year-old’s appeal getting rejected on Tuesday, as a Russian court upheld the nine-year prison sentence that was handed down to her this past summer.

“I do think there’s more to it than what she’s been sentenced for. She is a political pawn,” said Ms Staley. “We must do something for Brittney and her family, and the rest of our prisoners who are wrongly detained and in other countries.”

Watch the full clip below:

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White House urges safe return of Brittney Griner

Tuesday 25 October 2022 22:25 , Graeme Massie

Karine Jean-Pierre told her daily briefing that the Biden administration would increase its efforts to bring the WNBA star back to the US.

“Our hearts are with Brittney Griner, her wife and her family, friends and teammates in light of the appalling news out of Russia today. This news only increases the urgency of our efforts to bring (her) home,” she said.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice at State Department calls for ‘immediate release’

Tuesday 25 October 2022 22:59 , Graeme Massie

Desirée Cormier Smith took to Twitter to call Russian judicial proceedings “a sham.”

“We are disappointed but not surprised by the denial of Brittney Griner’s appeal. Just another reminder that these judicial proceedings are a sham. Russia should release BG immediately. We will not stop doing all we can to bring her home as soon as possible,” she wrote.

 (AP)
(AP)

WNBPA president and player calls for Griner to be given ‘mercy'

Tuesday 25 October 2022 23:14 , Graeme Massie

Nneka Ogwumike, who plays for the LA Sparks and has also played in Russia like “much loved” Griner, called for her return to the US.

“She is being used in a way we never anticipated, especially as someone who has contributed so much to Russian sports culture,” she said.

“She has atoned and is looking for mercy, and I hope that is eventually something that comes through in BG’s case.”

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WNBA calls Russian decision ‘unfortunate’ and calls for Griner’s return

Tuesday 25 October 2022 23:34 , Graeme Massie

“Today’s decision while unfortunate, was not unexpected and Brittney Griner remains wrongly detained. We greatly appreciate the ongoing efforts of the Administration and U.S. Department of State in leading the negotiations. It is time to bring this case to an end and bring BG home,” the WNBA tweeted.

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Griner is “holding up well” her Russian lawyer tells CNN

Wednesday 26 October 2022 00:08 , Graeme Massie

“She is holding up well, she is a champion, she is a fighter,” Maria Blagovolina told CNN on Tuesday evening.

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Brittney Griner apologises for ‘mistake’ at appeal hearing, adds she ‘did not intend to do this'

01:02 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: After her defence delivered a statement and asked for an acquittal or at least reduction in the nine-year prison sentence, Brittney Griner made a statement at her appeal, which was relayed to the Russian courtroom via a video feed as the WNBA star watched the proceeding from a cell.

“This has been a very traumatic experience, waiting for this day, waiting for the first court day and getting nine years,” began the imprisoned 32-year-old via video feed, noting that people with more severe crimes had received considerably less harsh sentences.

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She asked that the court reconsider her case and take everything into account that her defence team had earlier laid out.

“I apologise for the mistake, I did not intend to do this,” Ms Griner said, adding that she hopes that court adjusts her sentence and also hopes that they take into account that she pleaded guilty to the offence.

Brittney Griner’s appeal rejected by Russian court

02:04 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: A Russian court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by US basketball star Brittney Griner against her nine-year prison sentence for possession and smuggling of drugs.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist was arrested on 17 Feb at a Moscow airport with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is banned in Russia. She was sentenced on 4 Aug to nine years in a penal colony.

Brittney Griner says she understood the verdict

03:02 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: The presiding judge in Brittney Griner’s appeal hearing said Tuesday that the verdict was upheld “without changes” except for the counting of time served in pre-trial detention as part of the sentence, Reuters reported.

Ms Griner, who watched the hearing via a video link as she was being held in her detention centre in the town of Novoye Grishino, just outside Moscow, alternately stood and sat throughout the proceeding while dressed in a black and red lumberjack shirt.

When asked if she understood the verdict, the WNBA start replied with a concise: “Yes”.

WNBA star to serve approximately eight more years in prison, in re-calculated time served

04:03 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: When delivering the verdict in upholding Brittney Griner’s nine-year prison sentence, the court added that the remaining time that the 32-year-old WNBA star has to serve will be recalculated based on her pre-trial detention.

One day in pre-trial detention will be counted as 1.5 days in prison, the Russian court said, so the basketball player will have to serve around eight more years in prison.

US National Security Advisor calls Griner appeal rejection another ‘sham judicial proceeding’

05:03 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan issued a statement on the continued “wrongful detention” of WNBA star Brittney Griner minutes after the Russian court rejected the 32-year-old’s appeal to have the nine-year prison sentence either acquitted or reduced, slamming it as another “sham judicial proceeding”.

“President Biden has been very clear that Brittney should be released immediately. 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,” said Mr Sullivan in the statement issued on Tuesday morning.

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“The President has demonstrated that he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths and make tough decisions to bring Americans home, as his Administration has done successfully from countries around the world. The Administration remains in regular touch with representatives of the families, and we continue to admire their courage in the face of these unimaginable circumstances.”

ICYMI: What is hashish oil and how did it land Brittney Griner in a Russian jail?

06:02 , Graeme Massie

WNBA star Brittney Griner had her appeal to have her nine-year jail sentence acquitted or reduced rejected by a Russian court on Tuesday.

In February, according to the Russian officials, Mr Griner allegedly packed hashish oil in her bag, likely in the form of a vape.

It was that discovery that led to her nine-year sentence, after Ms Griner pleaded guilty in July to charges of smuggling less than a gram of hash oil.

Here’s what to know about the substance.

What is hashish oil and how did it land Brittney Griner in a Russian jail?

Griner’s lawyers hope basketball star can be released in prisoner exchange

07:01 , Graeme Massie

Speaking to reporters outside the Moscow courtroom where US basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal was rejected, lawyers for the WNBA player said they hoped that she could find freedom through a prisoner exchange overseen by her country’s government.

“We hope that an exchange is possible,” said defence lawyer Alexander Boykov on Tuesday, adding that his team plans to speak with Ms Griner in the next couple of days.

Ultimately, he noted, the decision now lies with Ms Griner about whether she wants her legal team to pursue a second appeal of the verdict that will keep her behind bars for eight more years, after her pre-trial detention time served knocked off a few months of her nine-year sentence.

Griner’s lawyers say it will be some time before she is moved to prisoner colony

07:57 , Graeme Massie

Brittney Griner’s lawyers said in a prepared statement that their client’s chief fear right now is that she will be forced to serve out the full nine-year sentence, Reuters reported.

“Brittney’s biggest fear is that she is not exchanged and will have to serve the whole sentence in Russia. She had hopes for today as each month, each day away from her family and friends matters to her,” the statement read.

They added that it take some time before the 32-year-old was relocated to a prison colony, where she has been sentenced to serve the remainder of her nine-year sentence.

US Embassy in Moscow says it’s ‘another sad day for the rule of law in Russia'

09:01 , Graeme Massie

The US Embassy in Moscow took to Twitter on Tuesday to react to the news that Brittney Griner’s hearing had ended with the Russian court rejecting her defence team’s request for an acquittal or reduction in her nine-year prison sentence.

“Another sad day for the rule of law in Russia. Ms. Griner’s excessive and disproportionate sentence of 9 years remains. The U.S. government continues to consider Brittney wrongfully detained,” tweeted the embassy’s official Twitter account.

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Brittney Griner to serve remaining eight years of nine-year prison sentence, court rules

10:03 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: Throughout Tuesday’s proceedings, Brittney Griner’s lawyers argued that her punishment was excessive, highlighting how similar cases in the country had amounted to much less severe sentences of five years. About a third of those cases, they noted, were granted parole.

Their efforts to acquit or reduce the WNBA star’s nine-year prison sentence would prove fruitless, as shortly after the hearing concluded the judge presiding over the proceeding announced that the Russian court would be upholding the sentence handed down in August.

Read the full report from The Independent here.

Russian court rejects Brittney Griner appeal of 9-year prison sentence

Former Obama White House official compare Griner to ‘prisoner of war'

11:05 , Graeme Massie

David Axelrod, a former Obama-era White House official who served as the former president’s senior advisor, compared Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia on Tuesday to that of a “prisoner of war”.

“Poor ⁦@brittneygriner⁩ effectively has become a prisoner of war--a tragic pawn in a larger game,” tweeted the former chief strategist for Barack Obama‘s presidential campaigns after learning that the WNBA star’s appeal to have her prison sentence reduced or acquitted had been rejected by a Moscow court.

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US State Department spokesperson says ‘sad for justice in Russia’

12:02 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: US State Department spokesperson Ned Price spoke with CNN on Tuesday, shortly after a Russian court upheld its nine-year prison sentence of WNBA star Brittney Griner and blasted the proceeding as a “sham” and a “sad day for justice in Russia”.

The spokesperson added that the US continues to “engage with the Russians,” with conversations taking place as recently as the past few days.

“We are continuing to urge them to engage, and to engage seriously on this because we want to see Paul [Whelan], we want to see Brittney [Griner] returned to their loving families,” he said, highlighting the other American who is serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.

Watch the full clip below:

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What’s next for Brittney Griner after Russia court rejects her appeal of nine-year prison sentence?

12:28 , Johanna Chisholm

ICYMI: The WNBA star’s lawyers said their client will be transferred to a Russian penal colony in the next few months.

Johanna Chisholm has the story.

What’s next for Brittney Griner after Russia court rejects appeal?

ICYMI: What happened to WNBA star Brittney Griner and why is she detained in Russia?

13:30 , Johanna Chisholm

WNBA star Brittney Griner, 32, has been detained in Russia since February after illegal cannibas oil was allegedly found in her luggage by officials at a Moscow airport.

Her detainment occurred shortly before Russia launched its war in Ukraine, with geopolitical tensions making it undoubtedly more difficult to secure her release.

Ms Griner’s family, friends and fans – alongside many public figures – have been calling on Russia to free her for months and for the US State Department to intervene.

She pleaded guilty to drug charges in July before being sentenced to nine years behind bars the following month.

An appeal hearing in Russian court was held on Tuesday. Despite Maria Blagovolina, one of the lawyers representing Ms Griner, arguing that the “punishment imposed on Griner does not correspond to the gravity of the crime,” a Russian court denied Ms Griner’s appeal to reduce her prison sentence.

Here’s everything we know about the ordeal:

Why is WNBA star Brittney Griner detained in Russia?

Teammates, basketball players across the WNBA league share messages for Brittney Griner

14:30 , Johanna Chisholm

With the news that Brittney Griner’s appeal to have her nine-year prison sentence acquitted or reduced was rejected by a Russian court on Tuesday, colleagues and peers from across the basketball world began sharing their tributes to the detained 32-year-old.

“a sister, daughter, wife, teammate, friend, Olympian, activist, community leader, champion… that should be at home with her loved ones. 250 days too many,” tweeted Natalie Achonwa, a Canadian WNBA player with the Minnesota Lynx.

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Bria Nicole Hartley, a French-American professional basketball player for the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, tweeted, “We miss you and we love you BG,” while Emma Meesseman, who plays in both the Russian Premier League and the WNBA with the Chicago Sky, wrote, “BG should be with her family,” alongside the hashtag #FreeBG.

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Kia Nurse, Ms Griner’s teammate on the Phoenix Mercury and a Canadian basketball player, tweeted, my heart goes out to BG and her loved ones. We love you and we miss you. Bring her home,” with the hashtag #WeareBG

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Phoneix Mercury president reacts to Griner’s appeal being rejected: ‘There are things more important than basketball'

15:33 , Johanna Chisholm

The president of the Phoenix Mercury, the WNBA team that Brittney Griner plays for, called for bringing the eight-time WNBA All-Star and two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year home after learning of her appeal being rejected on Tuesday.

“It’s hard to say she’s doing well, given the circumstance ... unfortunately we were hoping for some mercy today and we didn’t receive any of that,” said president Vince Kozar.

“This is a reminder that there are things that are a lot more important than basketball and Brittney coming home is at the very, very, very top of that list for all of us, even if she comes home tomorrow and never plays again,” he said when asked about the very real possibility that the 32-year-old might never play in the WNBA again.

Watch the full clip here:

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Kremlin: Any talks about Brittney Griner swap must be confidential

16:30 , Johanna Chisholm

The Kremlin on Wednesday kept the door open for talks on a possible swap involving jailed US basketball star Brittney Griner but reiterated that any such discussions must be kept strictly confidential.

A Russian court on Tuesday rejected Griner’s appeal against her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession. The eight-time all-star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist was convicted Aug. 4 after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

Asked if Griner could be freed as part of a prisoners swap with Washington, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with reporters that “we always say that any contacts about possible exchanges can only be conducted in silence under a tight lid on any information.”

Continue reading the full report below.

Kremlin: Any talks about Brittney Griner swap must be confidential

Ex-Democrat Tulsi Gabbard strikes out at Biden for broaching talks with Putin over Griner, but not ‘nuclear holocaust’

17:30 , Johanna Chisholm

Former Rep Tulsi Gabbard, who announced earlier this month that she would be leaving the Democratic party and less than a week later began throwing her weight behind Trump-endorsed candidates, hit out at the Biden administration for engaging in diplomatic talks with Russia over detained WNBA star Brittney Griner.

“What’s more important to Biden? Freeing a basketball star from a Russian prison, or preventing you, your loved ones and billions around the world from a nuclear holocaust?” tweeted the former House member from Hawaii who ran for president as a Democrat in the 2020 election cycle on Wednesday. “Biden refuses to discuss preventing WWIII with Putin, but will happily talk to him about Griner.”

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In a video statement shared to her social media accounts earlier this month, she voiced how she would run as an independent going forward after accusing the Democratic party of being “under the complete control of an elitist cabal of warmongers driven by cowardly wokeness.”

President Biden promises US is not forgetting about Brittney Griner

18:30 , Johanna Chisholm

In remarks on Tuesday, President Joe Biden promised listeners that he and other US officials have not forgotten about detained WNBA star Brittney Griner, nor other Americans who are currently being held custody in Russia.

“We are in constant contact with Russian authorities to get Brittney and others out,” said Mr Biden at a press briefing, before noting that, “so far, we have not been meeting with much positive response, but we’re not stopping.”

Griner’s lawyers say it will be some time before she is moved to prisoner colony

19:30 , Johanna Chisholm

Brittney Griner’s lawyers said in a prepared statement that their client’s chief fear right now is that she will be forced to serve out the full nine-year sentence, Reuters reported.

“Brittney’s biggest fear is that she is not exchanged and will have to serve the whole sentence in Russia. She had hopes for today as each month, each day away from her family and friends matters to her,” the statement read.

They added that it take some time before the 32-year-old was relocated to a prison colony, where she has been sentenced to serve the remainder of her nine-year sentence.

Keep reading more about Russia’s controversial penal colonies with The Independent below.

Brittney Griner follows Pussy Riot to notorious ‘concentration camp’ prison