Brittney Griner’s legal team said Wednesday that the American basketball star has been sent to a penal colony in Russia to serve her drug possession sentence, according to The Associated Press.
Griner’s nine-year sentence was upheld by a Russian court last month. The two-time Olympic gold medalist and eight-time all-star center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury was found guilty in August after police said they discovered vape cartridges infused with cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.
“Every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “As we have said before, the U.S. Government made a significant offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and wrongful detentions of American citizens.”
Griner’s legal team says she left a detention facility outside Moscow on November 4 for a penal colony, as Russian prisons are referred to. Given that she lost her appeal, this was expected.
The AP reports that such transfers can take days or even weeks and that the prisoner’s loved ones and attorneys typically don’t have contact with them during that time. Griner may be difficult to reach even after she arrives because many Russian prisons are located in remote regions. Her attorneys also stated Wednesday that they were unaware of her exact location and whereabouts but that they anticipated they would be notified when she reached her final destination.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Russian authorities grant the embassy regular access to Griner as they are required to do, emphasizing the efforts being made to secure Griner’s release. U.S. Embassy officials in Moscow reportedly visited Griner last week.
Prisoners work for little pay in many penal colonies, and dissidents and other nations have criticized the treatment of those detained there.
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