U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner (file photo)
A Russian court has set October 25 as the date for American basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal against her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession.
The Moscow regional court said on October 3 it will hear her appeal on October 25 at 11 a.m. local time, according to the Interfax news agency. Griner, a star of the U.S. Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), was convicted on August 4 at the Khimki court near Moscow after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Griner’s lawyers have argued that the nine-year sentence is excessive. Griner admitted that she had the canisters in her luggage when she passed through the Moscow airport in February just days before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but she said she had inadvertently packed them. Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was returning to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, where she plays in the WNBA's off-season. She told the court that she had no criminal intent, and her defense team presented written statements showing she had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain caused by injuries she suffered while playing basketball. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed in July that Washington had made a proposal to get Griner home along with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage. Blinken said later that he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed a possible prisoner swap, but since then the White House has said it has not received a productive response from Russia. U.S. media have reported that Washington has offered to exchange Griner and Whelan for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in a U.S. prison.