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Brittney Griner legal team announces appeal against Russian drugs sentence

Lawyers representing the US basketball star have confirmed they will appeal a nine-year sentence handed down in Russia for drugs offenses.

Update:
A sign supporting Brittney Griner who has recently been sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia, is displayed during the first half of the game between the Washington Spirit and Racing Louisville FC at Lynn Family Stadium.
EM DashUSA TODAY Sports

The defence team of Brittney Griner, the US basketball star jailed in Russia on drugs charges, appealed on Monday against her conviction for narcotics possession and trafficking. Griner was convicted on 4 August in a verdict that US President Joe Biden called “unacceptable”. Washington says she was wrongfully detained and has offered to exchange her for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States.

Monday was the deadline for Griner to contest the verdict. Maria Blagovolina, partner at Rybalkin Gortsunyan Dyakin and Partners law firm, told Reuters the appeal had been filed but declined to comment further.

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Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist who had played for a Russian club, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on 17 February after cannabis-infused vape cartridges were found in her luggage.

She pleaded guilty to the charges but said she had not meant to break the law. “I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling, that it doesn’t end my life here,” Griner told the court at Khimki, near Moscow, at her sentencing.

It was not clear how soon an appeal could be heard.

Griner appeal based on alleged violations during investigation

We demand to overturn the verdict passed by the Khimki court and impose a new sentence,” Alexander Boikov, a lawyer at Moscow Legal Center who represented Griner in court, told Reuters.

He said the appeal would be mainly based on alleged violations in the course of the investigation. Griner’s defence team argued in court that some of her case files had been drawn up without being translated for her into English.

The athlete was caught up in a geopolitical storm when Russia sent troops into Ukraine a week after her arrest and the United States and its allies responded with unprecedented waves of sanctions against Moscow.

Russia denies that the case was politically motivated. It has warned the United States against engaging in “megaphone diplomacy” and warned that any prisoner swap would have to be negotiated in private.

Russia calls double standards over White House Trump silence

In a Telegram post on Monday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova took issue with the White House’s public criticism of the Russian court verdict. She contrasted that with its silence over last week’s FBI raid on the property of former president Donald Trump, of which a White House spokeswoman said Biden had not been aware.

“Let me remind you, Griner was smuggling cartridges of liquid for smoking, which contained hashish oil. The basketball player herself admitted this, since there was no point in denying it,” Zakharova said.

“At the same time, the White House refuses to comment on the investigation around Trump and the seizure of certain documents related to the White House from him. Complete silence, although we are talking about American justice and law enforcement.”

* This content was produced in Russia, where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine.

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