Policy

Griner lawyers: ‘Health’ is primary concern amid transfer to penal colony

Brittney Griner
WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner looks through bars as she listens to the verdict standing in a cage in a courtroom in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. A judge in Russia has convicted American basketball star Brittney Griner of drug possession and smuggling and sentenced her to nine years in prison. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP)

Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated Bill Richardson’s previous title.

The attorneys and agent for detained WNBA star Brittney Griner on Wednesday said that the star athlete’s health is their primary concern amid Griner’s transfer to a Russian penal colony and her ongoing detainment in the country. 

“Our primary concern continues to be BG’s health and well-being,” Griner’s agent Lindsay Colas said in a statement on Wednesday. “As we work through this very difficult phase of not knowing exactly where BG is or how she is doing, we ask for the public’s support in continuing to write letters and express their love and care for her.” 

Colas also said that her team will work closely with U.S. officials and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) on the matter, saying they are “using all available resources to determine her whereabouts, ensure her safety, and bring her home.”

“We are thankful for everyone’s support, and hope that as we near nine months of detention, that BG and all wrongfully detained Americans will be shown mercy and returned home to their families for the holidays,” Colas added. 

In a separate statement, Griner’s attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov confirmed that their client has been transferred from her detention center in Iksha to a penal colony, saying in accordance with standard Russian procedure, they will be notified by Russian authorities of her arrival at the prison via mail within a two-week timeline. 

This comes as a Russian regional court last month denied Griner and her legal counsel’s appeal to reduce or throw out her initial nine-year sentence for possessing cannabis oil at a Moscow airport.

The regional court did lower Griner’s sentence to eight years by factoring in her time served in pre-trial detention. 

Griner, who plays professionally for WNBA’s Pheonix Mercury, has been held in Russia since February, being arrested by authorities days after Russian began its war against neighboring Ukraine. 

The Biden administration has made Griner’s case, along with that of another detained American, former U.S. Marine Paul Whalen, one of its top priorities, saying that both individuals are wrongfully detained in the country. 

“Our hearts are with Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, as well as their family, friends, and supporters, who all continue to suffer from Russia’s decision to wrongfully detain U.S. citizens. We continue to work relentlessly to bring them home,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “I am focused on doing so, as are so many others in the Department. We will not relent until they are reunited with their loved ones.”

–Updated at 11:28 a.m.

Tags Alexander Boykov Bill Richardson Brittney Griner Brittney Griner Brittney Griner detention Lindsay Colas Maria Blagovolina Moscow Pheonix Mercury Russia Russia-Ukraine conflict State Department WNBA
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