Listen to this article here
American basketball star Brittney Griner has been sent to a penal colony in Russia to serve her sentence for drug possession, her legal team said Wednesday.
The eight-time all-star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist was convicted Aug. 4 after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.
On October 25, a Russian court denied the appeal of Griner, who faces nine years in prison, dating back to Feb. 17.
“Brittney was transferred from the detention center in Iksha on the 4th November. She is now on her way to a penal colony. We do not have any information on her exact current location or her final destination,” the statement from her legal team said.
On November 4, Biden administration officials were finally allowed to meet with a chained and confined Griner, however, that seems to not have influenced her potential release.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “Every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long. As the Administration continues to work tirelessly to secure her release, the President has directed the Administration to prevail on her Russian captors to improve her treatment and the conditions she may be forced to endure in a penal colony. As we have said before, the U.S. Government made a significant offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and wrongful detentions of American citizens.”
Russia’s penal colony system is in essence a network of prison camps in which prisoners are housed in barracks and perform labor, according to the Center for Eastern Studies in Poland.
What is a Russian penal colony?
Penal colonies are the descendants of Russia’s Soviet-era forced labor camps, known as gulags. They are also a source of revenue, with many housing manufacturing plants for food or clothing, and others doing construction work. Penal colonies are located in sparsely populated parts of the country, far from urban areas, and the system lends itself to a “unique penal culture in Russia that combines imprisonment and exile,” according to a report by Amnesty International.
“We do not have any information on her exact current location or her final destination,” said attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov. “In accordance with the standard Russian procedure, the attorneys, as well as the US Embassy, should be notified upon her arrival at her destination. Notification is given via official mail and normally takes up to two weeks to be received.”
“No judge, hand on heart, will honestly say that Griner’s nine-year sentence is in line with Russian criminal law,” Alexander Boykov, one of Griner’s lawyers, said according to Reuters.
As Griner is moved to an unknown location in a country that can be described as adversarial at best, only time will tell if and when Brittney will come home.