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Brittney Griner Appeals Russian Drug Smuggling Conviction amid Prisoner Swap Talks

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVAugust 15, 2022

KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Brittney Griner has appealed her conviction on drug smuggling charges and the nine-year prison sentence she was given by a Russian court, according to Ivan Nechepurenko of the New York Times.

Griner was accused of attempting to smuggle vape cartridges containing hashish oil through a Russian airport in her luggage back in February.

Her appeal is expected to take around three months to be resolved.

The United States and Russia have reportedly discussed a prisoner swap, with Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan proposed in a potential trade by U.S. President Joe Biden for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Per Nechepurenko, Griner's legal team has offered to withdraw its appeal if it would help expedite the exchange.

T.J. Quinn @TJQuinnESPN

NEW: Brittney Griner's legal team files appeal, as they said they would. What do you need to know:<br>1. The point isn't to win an appeal, it's to prevent her transfer to a penal colony, where life is a lot rougher.<br>/1<a href="https://t.co/hqRJaFCUNy">https://t.co/hqRJaFCUNy</a>

T.J. Quinn @TJQuinnESPN

5. All optimism is tempered by the reality that talks could blow up at any time, for any random reason.<br>6. Griner's lawyer quoted as saying if Russia wants them to drop the appeal to facilitate a deal, they will.<br>/3

"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," Russian diplomat Aleksandr Darchiev noted.

In its appeal, Griner's legal team argued the Russian court ignored "serious procedural violations during detention, extraction of physical evidence, arrest and investigation," per one of her lawyers, Aleksandr Boikov.

He believed the case could have been tossed for procedural grounds and did not "correspond to the current legal practice of Russian courts," calling Griner's sentence "unprecedentedly harsh."

The United States has officially stated Griner has been "wrongfully detained" for political motivations under the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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