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November 29, 2022 10:47 am

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Brittney Griner’s appeal denied by Russian court


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A Russian court upheld the prison sentence levied against basketball superstar Brittney Griner on drug charges.

The WNBA player will serve nine years in a penal colony unless the U.S. government, which considers her to be wrongfully detained, can negotiate a deal to secure her release. She has been held since her arrest in February.

BRITTNEY GRINER AND PAUL WHELAN COULD BE FREED BY YEAR’S END, ADVOCATE SAYS

She did not appear in court and attended Tuesday’s proceedings via a video link from the detention center where she has been detained since her arrest, according to the New York Times.

“President Biden has been very clear that Brittney should be released immediately,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “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, including fellow wrongful detainee Paul Whelan.”

“Brittney is a very strong person and has a champion’s character,” her lawyers said in their statement on Monday. “She of course has her highs and lows as she is severely stressed being separated from her loved ones for over eight months.”

Griner was convicted on Aug. 4 after pleading guilty to drug charges for bringing vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage through a Moscow airport in mid-February. During her original trial, she admitted to bringing the cartridges, though she said it was an accident.

The State Department revealed in July that the administration had made a “substantial proposal” to get them home following public pressure to get her back. The administration declined to provide specifics on the details of the suggested swap, but it’s been widely reported that it included the release of convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who has been nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” for allegedly selling arms to sanctioned human rights abusers in various African nations.

Roughly two weeks ago, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov visited Bout in prison, though it’s unclear whether the meeting was a precursor to a possible swap.

President Joe Biden was recently asked if there had been any progress about a possible meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding a possible swap, and he said, “Not with Putin.” The president also said that he would meet with Putin at next month’s G-20 Summit to discuss a possible swap but that otherwise, he doesn’t plan to speak with the Russian leader.

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Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, a longtime advocate for U.S. hostages abroad, said earlier this month that he believes Griner and Paul Whelan, another American considered wrongfully detained by the administration, could be returned by the end of the year.

Whelan, a Michigan man, is serving a 16-year prison sentence on espionage-related charges that he and his family vehemently deny. He has been held since late 2018.