Lawyers are appealing Brittney Griner’s nine-year Russian prison sentence for drug possession.

MOSCOW — Lawyers for American basketball star Brittney Griner on Monday appealed her nine-year Russian prison sentence for drug possession, Russian news agencies reported on Monday.

Griner, a Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was sentenced Aug. 4. She was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February after vape canisters containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage.

Griner played for a women’s basketball team in Yekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason.

Lawyer Maria Blagovolina was quoted as saying by Russian news outlets on Monday that the appeal had been filed but the reasons for the appeal were not immediately clear.

FILE – US basketball player Brittney Griner looks through bars as she listens to the verdict, which stands in a cage in a courtroom in Khimki, Thursday, August 4, 2022.

Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool photo via AP, file

Blagovolina and co-counsel Alexander Boykov said after the sentencing that the sentence was excessive and that defendants in similar cases had received an average sentence of about five years, with about a third of them being paroled.

Griner admitted that she had the canisters in her luggage, but said that she accidentally packed them in a hurry and that she had no criminal intent. Her defense team submitted written statements that her cannabis had been prescribed to treat pain.

Prior to her sentencing, the US State Department declared Griner “unlawfully detained.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the unusual step of publicly revealing in July that the US had made a “substantive proposal” to bring Griner home, along with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage has served.

Blinken didn’t elaborate, but The Associated Press and other news organizations have reported that Washington has offered to release Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US and once nicknamed himself “Dealer of the death” deserved.”

On Sunday, a senior Russian diplomat said exchange talks had been held.

“This rather sensitive issue of exchanging convicted Russian and US citizens is being discussed through the channels established by our presidents,” Alexander Darchiev, head of the State Department’s North America department, told state news agency Tass. “These people are indeed being discussed. The Russian side has long been trying to secure Viktor Bout’s release. The details should be left to professionals, based on the principle of ‘do no harm’.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Lawyers are appealing Brittney Griner’s nine-year Russian prison sentence for drug possession.

Dais Johnston

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