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Brittney Griner appeals Russian conviction for drug charges: Reports

Lawyers for WNBA star Brittney Griner filed an appeal Monday against her conviction in Russia on drug smuggling and possession charges, according to multiple reports.

A Russian court sentenced Griner to nine years in prison on Aug. 4. Griner, 31, has been detained since Feb. 17, when she was taken into custody at a Moscow-area airport after authorities said they found hashish oil in vape canisters in her luggage. Griner was returning to Russia to join UMMC Ekaterinburg, the team she plays for in the WNBA offseason, after a FIBA break. Hashish oil is an illegal substance in Russia.

The grounds of Griner’s appeal weren’t immediately known, according to reports.

Griner’s defense team argued during the trial that the Phoenix Mercury center used cannabis for medicinal purposes. Her lawyers presented a doctor’s letter in court recommending that the 31-year-old use medical cannabis in the U.S. to treat pain.

One day after Griner’s conviction, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the country was “ready to discuss” a prisoner swap proposal from the United States. The U.S. offered a deal aiming to bring home Griner and American Paul Whelan, who was arrested in Russia in 2018 on espionage charges and was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020. He has repeatedly denied the charges and asserted his innocence.

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The U.S. classified Griner as “wrongfully detained” in May. After Griner’s conviction, President Joe Biden in a statement called on Russia to “release her immediately.”

“My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible,” he said.

(Photo: Sputnik via AP)

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