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WNBA star and Russian prisoner Brittney Griner has been granted an appeal by the Russian courts.
The appeal case is set to be heard starting on October 25, months after the star was detained in February for bringing vape canisters with cannabis oil into Russia, days before Russia invaded Ukraine, the Daily Wire reported.
“I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here,” she said before she was found guilty and sentenced to nine years in prison. “I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here. I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope that that is far from this courtroom.”
President Joe Biden was furious with the verdict and sentence.
“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible,” he said in August.
Cherelle Griner, the wife of imprisoned WNBA player Brittney Griner, met with President Joe Biden last month.
Cherelle spoke with reporters after the meeting and noted that the White House said it is doing everything it can to help Griner and Paul Whelan’s family.
“Cherelle’s sense after meeting with Biden was that negotiations have been very complex but that Biden is determined to get a deal done,” CNN’s Abby Phillip wrote.
“I don’t think they have quite figured out exactly what Russia wants in return for BG,” Cherelle said, per Phillip.
Cherelle said she has exchanged a few letters with Griner during her imprisonment in Russia and that she believes things have taken a “dark turn.”
“She’s not well, Cherelle told Phillip. “She’s losing it.”
Cherelle also released a statement of her own following the Biden meeting.
“I’ve felt every minute of the grueling seven months without her,” she said. “I look forward to the day my wife is back home. As my family and I continue on this journey, I’d like to thank the broad coalition of friends, leaders, and supporters who continue to stand with us and advocate for Brittney’s swift and safe return. Let’s share a unified commitment to bringing all Americans home to their families and loved ones. Together We Are BG.”
Cherelle has been exchanging letters from BG during her imprisonment in Russia. But recently those letters have taken a dark turn. “She’s not well,” Cherelle told me. "She’s losing it.”
— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) September 17, 2022
Over the summer, a Russian court found Griner guilty of drug smuggling and possession charges.
She was sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison after a month-long trial and nearly six months after the basketball player was arrested at a Russian airport with cannabis in her luggage.
Russia has confirmed that it is in talks to swap Griner for Viktor Bout, the notorious “Merchant of Death” arms dealer who has been imprisoned in the United States since 2010.
According to the New York Times, talks about exchanging Griner for the Russian terrorist are becoming more open.
High-ranking Russian diplomat Aleksandr Darchiev said political negotiations with the U.S. are underway.
“The discussion of the quite sensitive topic of prisoner exchange of Russian and American citizens has been ongoing along the channels set out by the two presidents,” Darchiev told Russian state media.
Notably, then-Attorney General Eric Holder in November 2011 described Bout as “one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers” who allegedly tried to “sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to terrorists for use in killing Americans.”
“Today, one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers is being held accountable for his sordid past,” Holder said after Bout was convicted on terrorism charges. “Viktor Bout’s arms trafficking activity and support of armed conflicts have been a source of concern around the globe for decades. Today, he faces the prospect of life in prison for his efforts to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to terrorists for use in killing Americans.”