Brittney Griner: Russia rejects appeal against nine-year prison sentence

Russia has rejected an appeal by the US basketball star Brittney Griner against her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist was convicted in August after vape canisters containing cannabis oil were allegedly found in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

She asked a regional court in Moscow to reduce her “traumatic” sentence, but judges decided to leave the verdict unchanged. 

The 32-year-old appeared in court on Tuesday via video call from a detention centre near Moscow. She has been imprisoned since March. 

Her arrest in February came amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, just days before Russia invaded Ukraine. The US has said the case is politically motivated. 

Griner has admitted that she had the canisters in her luggage but denied any criminal intent and says she had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain.

The basketball star’s lawyers have also argued that her nine-year prison sentence was excessive.

Before her conviction, the US officials declared that Griner was “wrongfully detained”. Russia has denied the claims.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday that Washington had “active discussions” with Moscow to free Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan, who is serving 16 years in jail after being convicted of spying.

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