US basketball star Brittney Griner was transferred to a penal colony in Russia : NPR

WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner, who was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, sits in a defendant’s cage during a hearing in Khimki outside Moscow August 4, 2022, following the court’s verdict.

Evgenia Novozhenina/POOL/AFP via Getty Images


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Evgenia Novozhenina/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner, who was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, sits in a defendant’s cage during a hearing in Khimki outside Moscow August 4, 2022, following the court’s verdict.

Evgenia Novozhenina/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

MOSCOW — Jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner was transferred from a detention center outside Moscow and taken to a Russian penal colony to serve out her nine-year sentence for drug smuggling, her lawyers said on Wednesday.

A statement released by Griner’s legal team says they have no information on Griner’s “exact current whereabouts or ultimate destination.”

The statement also said that, in accordance with “standard Russian procedure,” they understand that Russian authorities will notify Griner’s legal team and the US Embassy of Griner’s whereabouts upon arrival at their destination.

Russian prison transfers can last from several days to several weeks.

The transfer follows a decision by the Russian Court of Appeal upheld Griner’s drug smuggling conviction Last month.

The White House attacked the decision as “sham justice” – although it made it clear that it was still working to secure Griner’s freedom through a possible prisoner swap.

“Every minute that Brittney Griner has to be unlawfully detained in Russia is a minute too long,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

“While the government works tirelessly to secure her release, the President has directed the government to persuade her Russian captors to improve her treatment and the conditions she may endure in a penal colony,” the statement said Explanation.

The White House says it made a “substantial offer” over the summer – widely reported to have a recommended trade of convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout – in exchange for Griner and another imprisoned American, former US Marine Paul Whelan.

White House officials also claim that Griner’s freedom is an administration priority, and have repeatedly encouraged Moscow to accept the deal or make a serious counter-offer.

In a recent interview with CNN, President Biden said the only reason he will be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia this month is to discuss Griner’s release.

Griner was first arrested for bringing less than a gram (0.04 ounces) of hash oil to Russia when she came to play in Russia’s women’s professional basketball league earlier this year. In August, convicted by a Russian court Griner to nine years in prison.

In court, Griner admitted that she mistakenly packed two vape cartridges in her rush to pack her luggage — but produced documents showing the oil was legally prescribed by her US doctor to treat pain. She also never failed a drug test.

But Griner’s arrest and subsequent trial overshadowed this war in Ukraine and the US-Russian relationship, which its supporters say has become hostage to geopolitics.

Griner’s Russian lawyers also note that the American’s nine-year prison sentence for drug offenses was unusually harsh even by Russian legal standards.

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