WNBA Star Brittney Griner, who has been imprisoned in Russia, had her charges and 9-year prison sentence upheld. Griner’s best chance of leaving the country anytime soon will be through a prisoner exchange.
Former prisoners of the Russian prison system have said that Griner will enter a penal system of grueling labor, isolation and psychological torment while serving her nine year sentence in a Russian gulag.
Brittney Griner will enter a system of isolation, grueling labor and psychological torment when she is transferred to a penal colony, the successor to the infamous Russian gulag, to fulfill a nine-year sentence, former prisoners and advocates say. https://t.co/jiLSZRtGzM
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 27, 2022
Griner spoke on a video call from her prison in Moscow saying, “I’ve been here almost eight months, and people with more severe crimes have been given less than what I was given,” Griner said.
“I really hope the court will adjust this sentence,” she said before the appeal denial, “because it has been very, very stressful and very traumatic to my mental and my psyche and being away from my family, not being able to communicate.”
CNN described the court proceedings saying, “(Griner) apologized as she and her attorneys asked the court for a more lenient sentence, arguing the verdict was unfair and unjustified under Russian law. The attorneys urged the court to acquit her, calling her sentence disproportionate and the previous court ruling wrong in saying Griner had criminal intent.”
Griner’s attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said, “The verdict contains numerous defects and we hoped that the court of appeal would take them into consideration. We still think the punishment is excessive and contradicts the existing court practice.”
The US government says Griner was wrongfully detained and expects an inevitable prisoner swap to come in the future.
“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,” U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.
Brittney is now faced with the worry that that exchange will never come, “Brittney’s biggest fear is that she is not exchanged and will have to serve the whole sentence in Russia,” a statement from Griner’s attorneys said.
The few reports of actual swap discussions between the nations have been interesting. The State Department reportedly offered to trade Viktor Bout, a convicted arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence in the United States for the WNBA star.
Russia’s only response was requesting the return of a man the United States doesn’t have in custody, Vadim Krasikov, a convicted murderer, serving his sentence in Germany.
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