Lawyers for American basketball star Brittney Griner filed an appeal against her nine-year prison sentence in Russia for drug possession.
Griner was arrested in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after vape canisters with cannabis oil were found in her luggage. On August 4, she was convicted.
Griner is a two-time Olympic medal winner and a center for the Phoenix Mercury, and plays in Russia during the WNBA off-season, as is common for women stars in the U.S.
Lawyer Maria Blagovolina said today that the appeal was filed, but declined to give any further details. Lawyer Alexander Boykov, who works for Moscow Legal Centre and represented Griner in court, said the appeal would be mainly based on alleged violations in the course of the investigation.
Griner’s defense team said that some of her case files had been drawn up exclusively in Russian and never translated for her to be able to read in English.
It remains unclear how long it will be until an appeal can be heard. It comes as more Russian officials are speaking more openly about a prisoner swap between Russian and American prisoners.
It is suspected by legal experts that Griner was handed such an aggressive sentence in a push to force a prisoner swap for a Russian arms dealer held in jail in America.
Many also suspect that Griner was arrested and detained as part of a political ploy by Russia, looking for an edge with Western nations in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which resulted in many sanctions against Russia.
Lawyers and legal experts say the sentencing for Griner was excessive, and in similar cases, defendants received an average of about five years. About a third were granted parole. The United States State Department declared Griner to be wrongfully detained before her conviction.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the unusual step of revealing publicly that the U.S. had in July made a “substantial proposal” to get Griner back to America, along with another American held in jail, Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.
This week a senior Russian diplomat said exchange talks had been conducted.