American basketball star Brittney Griner is detained in Russian airport
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 via video link 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.
Ms Griner’s defence team began the hearing by arguing that the expert who analysed the cartridges that led to her arrest was “unqualified” and asked that her “excessively harsh” sentence be reduced, NBC News reported.
“Given the lack of intent and given Griner’s contribution to Russian sports, the Defense considers the punishment ‘excessively harsh’,” tweeted Molly Hunter with NBC News before adding that they’d requested to hand down a new sentence.
Brittney Griner’s appeal rejected by Russian court
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.
Johanna Chisholm25 October 2022 13:47
Brittney Griner apologises for ‘mistake’ at appeal hearing, adds she ‘did not intend to do this’
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.
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.
Johanna Chisholm25 October 2022 13:04
Griner’s lawyers ask for acquittal or reduction in ‘cruel’ sentence
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.
Johanna Chisholm25 October 2022 12:55
Lawyers argue Griner’s sentence ‘excessively harsh’
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.”
Johanna Chisholm25 October 2022 12:35
Griner’s lawyers: Sentence doesn’t align with international or Russian legal norms
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.”
Johanna Chisholm25 October 2022 12:33
Griner’s defense debates pre-detention time served
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.
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.”
Johanna Chisholm25 October 2022 12:14
Griner appears ‘depleted’ while appearing via video in court
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.
Johanna Chisholm25 October 2022 12:05
Russian court begins hearing Griner appeal
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.
Johanna Chisholm25 October 2022 11:34
Brittany Griner could be moved to infamous penal colony if US is not able to secure her return
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.
Shweta Sharma25 October 2022 11:00
Griner pictured as she awaits delayed appeal hearing
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.
Shweta Sharma25 October 2022 10:47