Jailed basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal rejected by Russian court: ‘Very disappointing’

Brittney Griner behind bars in a Russian prison

WNBA player Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison for possession of cannabis oil, has had her appeal denied.

Today (25 October) a Russian appeals court heard the case of two-time Olympic gold medalist Griner, who attended the hearing in Moscow Regional Court via video conference. 

Griner was said to look despondent as she heard the news that her nine-year prison sentence has been upheld.

It is now expected that the 32-year-old Phoenix Mercury player will be moved from her current dentition centre to a penal colony.

A penal colony is a prison that is separated from the general population and usually in a remote location.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the decision was the product of “another sham judicial proceeding”.

“President Biden has been very clear that Brittney should be released immediately,” he said.

Meanwhile Griner’s attorney’s said the decision was “not what we expected”, and confirmed it could take months before she is sent to a penal colony.

“We are very disappointed,” they said. “We still think the punishment is excessive.”
They added that Griner’s “biggest fear” is serving the whole of her sentence in Russia if a prisoner swap does not take place.

“She had hopes for today as each month, each day away from her family and friends matters to her,” they added.

Griner’s attorneys will discuss next steps with her, and said they will use “all the available legal tools, especially given the harsh and unprecedented nature of her verdict”.

‘Pessimistic about the outcome’

On Monday (24 October) the basketball player’s attorney’s said she had been “pessimistic” that she would be freed.

Ahead of the outcome one of Griner’s attorneys, Maria Blagovolina, said Griner is “quite pessimistic about the outcome” of the appeal. 

Blagovolina told MSNBC News that Griner “hopes there will be some reduction but not that the verdict will be overruled”.

It follows the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s wife, Cherelle Griner, setting up the #WeAreBG campaign to mark her 32nd birthday which she spent in prison on 18 October.

Why is Brittney Griner in prison?

Griner was arrested in February after Russian authorities said they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. 

In July, Griner pleaded guilty but said it was an accident and stressed that she had no criminal intent. 

On 4 August, Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison and given a fine of one million rubles ($16,200). 

Cherelle Griner previously described the time she has spent without her wife as “gruelling” and she has since continued to campaign to see her wife freed. 

President Biden said he would only consider a meeting with Vladimir Putin if the Russian president will to discuss the release of Griner, and former basketball player, Dennis Rodman, has also aired his want to “help” release the basketball star.

The Biden administration even offered to exchange convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout as part of a deal to release Griner.