Nov 17 (Reuters) – U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner faces nine years in prison in Russia after her drug conviction, her lawyer said on Thursday. was transferred to a penal colony about 500 kilometers (300 miles) southeast of Moscow.
Griner was sentenced in August after being arrested at a Moscow airport in February with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. In November, she was transferred from a detention center near Moscow. The four will be taken to an undisclosed prison location.
Her legal team confirmed an earlier Reuters report that Griner had been taken to the women’s penal colony IK-2 in the town of Yavas in the Mordovian region.
“We can confirm that Britney is starting her sentence in IK-2 in Mordovia. We visited her earlier this week,” lawyers Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov (Alexander Boikov) said in a statement.
“Britney is doing as well as expected and trying to stay strong as she adjusts to her new surroundings,” they continued.
In the Mordovia region, another American, Paul Whelan, was sentenced to 16 years in prison after being convicted of espionage, an allegation he denies.
Asked about Greiner’s case before the attorney’s statement, a State Department spokesman said: “We are aware of reports of her location and are in regular contact with Ms. Greiner’s legal team.
“However, we strongly protest that the Russian Federation has still not provided any formal notification of such actions by American citizens.”
Prisoners in the Russian penal colonies had to work long hours, engaged in tedious manual labor such as sewing, for little pay. Former prisoners and human rights groups describe conditions as harsh and unsanitary, with little access to medical care.
Russia and the U.S. had discussed exchanging Greiner and former U.S. Marine Whelan for a Russian arms dealer jailed in the U.S., but no deal was reached amid rising tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
During her trial, Greiner, who played basketball for the Russian team during the U.S. offseason, said she had used marijuana to relieve sports injuries but did not intend to break the law. She told the court she made an inadvertent mistake when packing the cartridges in her luggage.
Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Toby Chopra, David Ljunggren and Cynthia Osterman
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