WNBA star Brittney Griner sent to harsh penal colony as US government continues to parley with Russia
The White House released a statement the same day she was transferred that they were working tirelessly to secure her release
MOSCOW, RUSSIA: WNBA star Brittney Griner has reportedly been transferred to a penal colony in Russia, months after being arrested in the country for allegedly possessing cannabis oil, her legal team said on Wednesday, November 9.
The move by the Russian government came after a court rejected Griner’s appeal for her nine-year sentence in October. The American basketball star was convicted on August 4 after authorities at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport discovered vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage. Her lawyers said she had been prescribed cannabis for pain, according to Fox News.
“Brittney was transferred from the detention center in Iksha on the 4th of November. She is now on her way to a penal colony. We do not have any information on her exact current location or her final destination,” the statement from her legal team said, according to ABC10. Condemning the move, The White House also released a statement early on Wednesday.
"Every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in the statement. "As the Administration continues to work tirelessly to secure her release, the President has directed the Administration to prevail on her Russian captors to improve her treatment and the conditions she may be forced to endure in a penal colony,"
"The U.S. Government is unwavering in its commitment to its work on behalf of Brittney and other Americans detained in Russia – including fellow wrongful detainee Paul Whelan," Jean-Pierre concluded.
Penal colonies in Russia are based on the Soviet-era forced labor camps, known as gulags. In these forced camps, the prisoners are housed in barracks, often associated with brutality and harsh conditions, the New York Times reported. The forced camps have a long history of abuse and torture. "Conditions in prisons and detention centers varied but were often harsh and life-threatening," a 2021 human rights report by the US Department of State revealed.
Griner is expected to face harsh conditions in the forced camps and it will also be hard for her to contact her family or her legal team. Her agent Lindsay Colas stated that her legal team was working closely with the US government and the Richardson Center to get her out. "Our primary concern continues to be BG’s [Brittney Griner's] health and well-being," Colas said on Wednesday. "As we work through this very difficult phase of not knowing exactly where BG is or how she is doing, we ask for the public’s support in continuing to write letters and express their love and care for her."
Talking about Brittney’s condition, her wife Cherelle told CBS Mornings that she was afraid of being forgotten by the US. “She’s very afraid about being left and forgotten in Russia,” Cherelle said. Brittney Griner reportedly told her over a phone call that she felt “like my life just doesn’t matter." "Like, y’all don’t see the need to get me back home? Am I just nothing?” Cherelle quoted her wife as saying. It wasn’t clear when the call took place.