WORLD NEWS

Russian court sets Brittney Griner appeal date for Oct. 25

Oct 3, 2022, 11:44 AM
Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury during the first half in Game Four of the 2021 WNBA semi...
Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury during the first half in Game Four of the 2021 WNBA semifinals at Footprint Center on October 06, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian court on Monday set Oct. 25 as the date for American basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal against her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession.

Griner, an eight-time all-star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was convicted Aug. 4 after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

The Moscow region court said it will hear her appeal.

Griner admitted that she had the canisters in her luggage, but testified that she had inadvertently packed them in haste and that she had no criminal intent. Her defense team presented written statements that she had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain.

WNBA’s Brittney Griner appeals her Russian prison sentence

Her February arrest came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, just days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine. At the time, Griner, recognized as one of the greatest players in WNBA history, was returning to Russia, where she played during the U.S. league’s offseason.

The nine-year sentence was close to the maximum of 10 years, and Griner’s lawyers argued after the conviction that the punishment was excessive. They said in similar cases defendants have received an average sentence of about five years, with about a third of them granted parole.

Before her conviction, the U.S. State Department declared Griner to be “wrongfully detained” — a charge that Russia has sharply rejected.

Reflecting the growing pressure on the Biden administration to do more to bring Griner home, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the unusual step of revealing publicly in July that Washington had made a “substantial proposal” to get Griner home, along with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.

EXPLAINER: What will it take to get Brittney Griner home?

Blinken didn’t elaborate, but The Associated Press and other news organizations have reported that Washington has offered to exchange Griner and Whelan for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. and once earned the nickname the “merchant of death.”

The White House said it has not yet received a productive response from Russia to the offer.

Russian diplomats have refused to comment on the U.S. proposal and urged Washington to discuss the matter in confidential talks, avoiding public statements.

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Russian court sets Brittney Griner appeal date for Oct. 25