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Brittney Griner will serve 9 years in a Russian penal colony after her appeal was rejected

Brittany Griner will serve 9 years in a Russian penal colony after her appeal was rejected

WNBA star Brittney Griner will begin her nine-year sentence in a Russian penal colony as intended after a Russian court rejected her appeal for a reduced sentence on Tuesday.

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If the U.S. government does not negotiate for her release, it means the American basketball star will have to serve the nine-year sentence initially handed to her for drug possession and smuggling at a penal colony in Russia.

Brittney Griner claims her punishment is harsh

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

“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. “I did not intend to do this,” she added.

Griner was arrested in February, at a time when there was rising tension between Russia and the United States, just days before Russia moved soldiers into Ukraine. Griner was going back to Russia, where she had previously competed during the offseason of the U.S. league.

The basketball star stated that although she had the canisters in her suitcase, she had packed them accidentally and without any criminal intent. Her defense team provided written declarations claiming she had received a cannabis prescription for pain relief.

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Griner’s attorneys contended that the punishment was harsh after the conviction because the nine-year sentence was close to the maximum of 10 years. According to them, defendants in situations like this received an average sentence of five years, with about a third of them being given parole.

Prior to her conviction, the U.S. State Department claimed that Griner had been “wrongfully detained.” However, Russia has rejected this claim.

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the unusual step of making it public in July that Washington had made a “substantial proposal” to bring Griner home, along with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.

This action reflected mounting pressure on the United States government to take additional action to bring Griner home.

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