Brittney Griner Appeals 9-Year Sentence Tuesday And Loses: What's Next? Russian Penal Colony Or Prisoner Swap?

Griner’s lawyers Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov urged the three-judge panel on Tuesday to acquit or reduce her sentence but instead, they upheld the nine-year sentence on drug smuggling charges, clearing the way for Griner to serve her time in a penal colony unless the U.S. government can negotiate a deal for her release.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called the decision "another sham judicial proceeding today. President Biden has been very clear that Brittney should be released immediately."

Blagovolina and Boykov said the long sentence did not fit the offense of possessing less than one gram of cannabis oil. 

"No judge, hand on heart, will honestly say that Griner's nine-year sentence is in line with Russian criminal law," Boykov told the judges.

Griner, who took part via video link, made a final statement, reported Reuters.

She said how stressful 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."

The two-time Olympic gold medallist was arrested at a Moscow airport on Feb. 17 for having less than one gram of cannabis oil in her suitcase, which she said she'd forgotten to remove in her hasty packing for the trip. Griner is a medical marijuana patient in the U.S. 

Prisoner Swap Next? But When?

Washington has said that Griner was wrongfully detained and has offered to exchange her and former Marine Paul Whelan for the notorious Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States. Moscow has also indicated it is open to a prisoner swap.

American officials have accused Russia of using Griner and other Americans in custody as bargaining chips. 

An aide to Vladimir Putin said recently that Brittney Griner is "not the main issue that we are concerned about." 

Biden said two weeks ago that he would be willing to speak to Putin at next month's Group of 20 meeting in Indonesia but only to discuss Griner’s case.


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