Brittney Griner’s nine-year prison sentence was upheld by a Russian court on Tuesday in a ruling her legal team called “excessive” and contradictory. But even with talks of a potential prisoner swap still on the table, the WNBA star fears the worst.
Griner’s attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a statement Tuesday that they were surprised by the court’s decision to deny her appeal of a nine-year prison sentence for drug possession — a charge they argued has received an average sentence of five years.
‘It is not what we expected. We are very disappointed,” Blagovolina and Boykov said, via Griner’s agency. “The verdict contains numerous defects and we hoped that the court of appeal would take them into consideration. We still think the punishment is excessive and contradicts to the existing court practice.”
BRITTNEY GRINER NOT EXPECTING ‘ANY MIRACLES’ IN APPEAL, HER LAWYERS SAY
Her team did not say whether or not they will further appeal the ruling.
“Brittney’s biggest fear is that she is not exchanged and will have to serve the whole sentence in Russia. She had hopes for today as each month, each day away from her family and friends matters to her.”
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National security adviser Jake Sullivan released a statement after the sentence was upheld.
“We are aware of the news out of Russia that Brittney Griner will continue to be wrongfully detained under intolerable circumstances after having to undergo another sham judicial proceeding today. President Biden has been very clear that Brittney should be released immediately,” the statement read.
Sullivan added that the White House has continued “to engage with Russia” over the release of Griner and “fellow wrongful detainee Paul Whelan” in recent weeks.
National Security Council coordinator John Kirby said in September that Russia has not responded to the “substantial proposal” the U.S. offered back in July. According to reports, that proposal includes Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S.
“Brittney Griner’s nine-plus year sentence is regarded as harsh and extreme by Russian legal standards,” Griner’s agent Lindsay Colas said in a statement. “Today’s disappointing, yet unsurprising, appeal outcome further validates the fact that she is being held hostage and is being used as a political pawn. Brittney Griner is being held by Russia simply because she is an American.”
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos and The Associated Press contributed to this report.