Brittney Griner appeals against Russian drugs conviction

Britney Griner  (AP)
Britney Griner (AP)

Lawyers for Brittney Griner have filed an appeal against her prison sentence, Russian news agencies reported on Monday.

Griner, an American basketball star for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison after being found guilty for drug possession.

Griner was detained by Russian police at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on February 17 with vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.

Lawyer Maria Blagovolina was quoted by Russian news agencies on Monday as saying the appeal was filed, but the grounds of the appeal weren’t immediately clear.

Ms Blagovolina and co-counsel Alexander Boykov said after the conviction that the sentence was excessive and that in similar cases defendants have received an average sentence of about five years, with about a third of them granted parole.

Griner admitted that she had the canisters in her luggage, but said she had inadvertently packed them in haste and that she had no criminal intent. Her defence team presented written statements that she had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the unusual step of revealing publicly in July that the US had made a “substantial proposal” to get Griner home, along with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.

Mr Blinken did not elaborate, but The Associated Press and other news organisations have reported that Washington has offered to free Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US and once earned the nickname the “Merchant of Death.”