Brittney Griner’s attorneys have filed an appeal against a Russian court’s decision to sentence the WNBA star to nine years in prison for drug possession,CNN reports.
The news comes amid talks between the U.S. and Russia for a potential high-profile prisoner swap.
The WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist was convicted on Aug. 4 after police at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport said they discovered vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage when she entered the country in February.
Griner admitted to having the canisters in her luggage but says she had packed them in haste and had no criminal intent. Her defense team presented written statements indicating that she had been prescribed cannabis for pain relief.
Griner’s case has raised concerns she is being used as a political pawn in Russia’s war against Ukraine. Last week, White House Press Secretary Karen Jean Pierre said that the Biden Administration is doing everything it can to bring her home and confirmed the U.S. has put forth an offer to Russia.
“Brittney Griner is being wrongfully detained, she should have never gone through the trial that we saw her go through…The President has been very clear about making sure she comes home and also Paul Whelan who has been also wrongfully detained,” Jean-Pierre said during the joint convention of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) in Las Vegas.
“You’ve heard from Secretary Blinken, who is over at the State Department on a pretty regular basis on how we are committed to getting her home to her family, to her wife and teammates. We will take extraordinary measures to do that. We put forth a substantial offer on the table to Russia and we urge them to take this seriously because we are taking this seriously,” she continued.
According to the Associated Press, a senior Russian diplomat said talks about an exchange have been conducted. “This quite sensitive issue of the swap of convicted Russian and U.S. citizens is being discussed through the channels defined by our presidents,” Alexander Darchiev, head of the Foreign Ministry’s North America department, told Russian state news agency Tass.
“These individuals are, indeed, being discussed. The Russian side has long been seeking the release of Viktor Bout. The details should be left to professionals,” Darchiev added.
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