Russian court denies Brittney Griner’s appeal

A Russian court has denied WNBA star Brittney Griner’s appeal of her nine-year conviction on drug smuggling charges.

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Griner had been convicted after officials said she smuggled less than a gram of cannabis oil in vape canisters in her luggage when she was in Russia playing basketball during the WNBA’s off-season, CNN reported.

She was arrested in February, days before Russia deployed troops into Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

Her lawyers said the conviction was unfair and unjustified.

The eight-time all-star center was convicted on Aug. 4, the AP reported.

Griner pleaded guilty, saying that while she did have the vape canisters, she did not intend to pack them and had no criminal intent. She had also been prescribed cannabis for pain management.

The court did adjust her prison term, giving her credit for pre-trial detention, counting each day she was held before her trial as 1.5 days off her sentence, meaning that she will serve about eight years in prison, the AP reported.

Griner did not appear in person. Instead, she attended the hearing remotely via video conference from the prison in which she is being held — Correctional Colony No. 1 in Novoye Grishino, north of Moscow, CNN reported.

The U.S. Department of State had considered Griner “wrongfully detained” and President Joe Biden’s administration has been facing pressure to bring her home.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in July that the U.S. had made a “substantial proposal” to bring her and Paul Whelan, an American who was convicted in Russia of espionage and who is serving a 16-year sentence, home.

There had been talk of a prisoner swap for Griner and Whelan in exchange for Viktor Bout, the AP reported.

Russia has been pushing for the release of Bout, an arms dealer who is serving 25 years behind bars and who is nicknamed the “merchant of death.” Bout was convicted on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquiring and exporting anti-aircraft missiles and providing material support to a terrorist organization, CNN reported.