Brittney Griner: WNBA star’s appeal date for drug conviction in Russia set for October 25 | NBA News

A Russian court has set October 25 as the date for American basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal against hernine-year prison sentence for drug possession.

Griner, an eight-time All-Star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and two-time Olympic gold medallist, was convicted on August 4 after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

The Moscow region court said it will hear her appeal.

Griner admitted that she had the canisters in her luggage, but testified that she had inadvertently packed them in haste and that she had no criminal intent. Her defence team presented written statements that she had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain.

Her arrest on February 17 came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, just days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine. At the time, Griner, recognised as one of the greatest players in WNBA history, was returning to Russia, where she played during the US league’s offseason.

The nine-year sentence was close to the maximum of 10 years, and Griner’s lawyers argued after the conviction that the punishment was excessive. They said in similar cases defendants have received an average sentence of about five years, with about a third of them granted parole.

Before her conviction, the US State Department declared Griner to be “wrongfully detained” – a charge that Russia has sharply rejected.

Reflecting the growing pressure on the Biden administration to do more to bring Griner home, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the unusual step of revealing publicly in July that Washington had made a “substantial proposal” to get her home, along with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.

Mr Blinken did not elaborate, but The Associated Press and other news organisations have reported that Washington has offered to exchange Griner and Whelan for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US and once earned the nickname the “merchant of death”.

The White House said it has not yet received a productive response from Russia to the offer.

Russian diplomats have refused to comment on the US proposal and urged Washington to discuss the matter in confidential talks, avoiding public statements.

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