An appeal submitted by imprisoned U.S. basketballer Brittney Griner has been rejected by a court in Russia, with state prosecutors concluding that her nine-year sentence for possessing less than one gram of cannabis oil was “fair”.

Griner, a professional basketball player from Houston, Texas, was arrested in Russia on drugs charges in Feb. 2022, shortly before Moscow launched its illegal invasion of Ukraine.

Griner was detained at an airport in Russia after allegedly being caught carrying vaporizer cartridges containing less than a gram of hash oil – a substance banned in Russia. She has been sentenced to nine years in prison.

The following month, the U.S. State Department concluded that Griner was being “wrongfully detained,” while some American politicians claimed she was being held as a “political pawn.”


Appearing at her appeal hearing via video link on Oct. 25, Griner apologized for what she said was an “honest mistake” that had led to a series of “very, very stressful” events.

An unnamed U.S. diplomat who attended the hearing told the panel that her sentence was “excessive and disproportionate.”

Speaking to reporters after his client’s appeal was denied, defense lawyer Alexander Boykov said that he hoped that a prisoner exchange would still be possible.

“No judge, hand on heart, would honestly say that Griner’s nine-year sentence is in line with Russian criminal law,” he said.

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However, negotiations have yet to secure the release of Griner, with State Department Spokesperson Ned Price saying on Oct. 23 that, despite talks having taken place “including in recent days,” the discussions “have not gotten to the point where we would like them to be.”

“We put forward a substantial proposal a number of months ago now,” said Price. “We have consistently urged our Russian counterparts to act on this proposal.”

Price added that no attempts had been made by the U.S. government to pressure for a reduction in sentences. He said that U.S. officials “have not weighed in on” the various judicial proceedings and judicial steps because “as we’ve made clear, we believe that these proceedings have been largely shambolic.”


In the meantime, Griner will serve her sentence in one of 35 of Russia’s harsh female penal colonies, estimated to house an estimated 60,000 inmates.

Sleeping in long rows of bunk beds, prisoners are forced to work during the day, sewing, cooking, cleaning, or serving food.

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