Brittney Griner Lost Appeal, Will Serve 9 Years in Russian Penal Colony

“People with more severe crimes have gotten less than what I was given.”

A Russian court rejected WNBA star Brittney Griner’s appeal for a reduced sentence on Tuesday, which means the All-Star basketball player will have to serve out her nine-year sentence for drug possession and smuggling at a penal colony in Russia unless U.S. leaders negotiate for her freedom.

During a virtual in-court appearance, Griner explained her case to the panel of three judges deciding her fate.

“I was barely over the significant amount [of cannabis oil]. People with more severe crimes have gotten less than what I was given,” she said, according to Reuters. “I did not intend to do this.”

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s appearance, Griner expressed through her attorney that she was not optimistic about the court ruling in her favor.

It’s been a long year for Griner. Her case has taken place against the backdrop of war between Ukraine and Russia, and a tense relationship between Russia and the United States.

Just two weeks before Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, the 32-year-old star player was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport near Moscow after customs found less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.

She has whisked away from the scene and has been in Russian custody since. Griner pleaded guilty to the drug charges, which carried a severe sentence of up to a decade in prison.

After months of delay, Griner was sentenced to nine years in August.

President Joe Biden has called on Russia to release Griner, and the U.S. Department of State has said Griner is “wrongfully detained.” Biden suggested a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in November only if it meant discussing Griner’s release.


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