American basketball player Brittney Griner, jailed in Russia in what the U.S. calls a wrongful detention, is being moved to a penal colony.
Brittney Griner : Penal Colony | Why is detained
On February 17, 2022, Griner was arrested on drug charges in Russia. She was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport after the Federal Security Service found she was carrying vaporizer cartridges containing less than a gram of hash oil; she had been prescribed medicinal cannabis in Arizona, which is illegal in Russia.
Some U.S. officials have expressed concern that Russia may be using her as leverage in response to the Western sanctions imposed against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Former Pentagon official Evelyn Farkas expressed concern that Griner could be used as a “high-profile hostage” by Russia.
Houston, Texas Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee called for Griner’s release.
In an interview with CNN, California Democratic Congressman John Garamendi estimated that it would be “very difficult” to get Griner out of Russia.
He stated that although there might be negotiations to have her released, they would be stymied by the fact that diplomatic relations between Russia and the United States were strained because of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Brittney Griner penal Colony
US basketball star Brittney Griner is being transferred to a Russian penal colony to serve the remainder of her smuggling sentence on drug charges that were upheld in late October.
“We do not have any information on her exact current location or her final destination,” said attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov.
“In accordance with the standard Russian procedure, the attorneys, as well as the US Embassy, should be notified upon her arrival at her destination.
Notification is given via official mail and normally takes up to two weeks to be received,” the attorneys added.
In addition to the nine-year sentence for transporting cannabis oil into Russia, for which she was found guilty of drug smuggling and possession, the US Basketball player Brittney Griner was also fined 1 million rubles (USD 16,500).
Describing Griner’s transfer to the Russian Penal Colony as “another injustice layered on her ongoing unjust and wrongful detention,” the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday, “As we work to secure Brittney Griner’s release, we expect Russian authorities to provide our Embassy officials with regular access to all US citizens detained in Russia.”
Earlier in August, US President Joe Biden on Thursday called a Russian court’s decision to sentence US women’s basketball player Brittney Griner to nine years in prison on drug charges “unacceptable” and called for the immediate release of the athlete.
Why is detained
Brittney Griner, a W.N.B.A. star and two-time Olympic gold medalist who has been detained in Russia since February, was found guilty in August of trying to smuggle illegal narcotics into Russia and sentenced to nine years in a penal colony.
Her appeal of the case was denied Tuesday. Her lawyers said before the hearing that she did “not expect any miracles to happen,” but they were hopeful the three-judge panel would reduce her sentence. It did not.
The next step is unclear. There are two higher courts in Russia, culminating in the Supreme Court, but her lawyers have not said whether they will take the case any further.
They have argued that Griner had not intended to smuggle narcotics into Russia and that her doctor had recommended the use of cannabis to treat pain from injuries.
Griner was convicted on a charge of attempting to smuggle narcotics into Russia, based on two vape cartridges containing hashish oil that were found in her luggage at a Moscow airport in February, when she traveled to the country to rejoin her Russian pro team.
She was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony, a penalty that was near the 10-year maximum for her convictions of her type.