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Russia sends American basketball star Brittney Griner to a penal colony

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner speaks to her lawyers standing in a cage at a court room prior to a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, July 26, 2022 (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner speaks to her lawyers standing in a cage at a court room prior to a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, July 26, 2022 (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

American basketball star Brittney Griner has been sent to a penal colony in Russia to serve her sentence for drug possession, her legal team says.

A Russian court rejected an appeal of her nine-year sentence last month. The eight-time all-star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist was convicted Aug. 4 after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

Her arrest came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, just days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, and the politically charged case could lead to a high-stakes prisoner exchange between Washington and Moscow.

Griner’s legal team says she left a detention center outside Moscow on Nov. 4 for a penal colony — as prisons in Russia are commonly known. The move was expected since she lost her appeal.

Such transfers can take days or even weeks, during which time lawyers and loved ones usually don’t have contact with the prisoner. Even after she arrives, access to Griner may be difficult since many penal colonies are in remote parts of Russia.

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