Wherever Brittney Griner was on Wednesday, one factor was clear: The American basketball star imprisoned by Russia was not heading again house, regardless of a concerted U.S. marketing campaign to win her freedom.
Ms. Griner was as a substitute being transferred from a jail exterior Moscow and thrust into Russia’s huge and opaque penal colony system, legal professionals mentioned.
Past that, little was identified.
Ms. Griner’s authorized crew mentioned in an announcement that her supposed vacation spot was unknown and that it anticipated to be formally notified, together with the U.S. Embassy, as soon as she had arrived. The method can take as much as two weeks.
It has been greater than eight months for the reason that W.N.B.A. star was seized after she flew into an airport close to Moscow with a small quantity of hash oil in her baggage. She has apologized repeatedly for what she says was an unintentional act, and pleaded responsible to the fees.
Late final month, a Russian court docket upheld the nine-year jail sentence imposed on Ms. Griner, 32, setting the stage for her switch to a penal colony, at the same time as American and Russian officers broached the opportunity of a prisoner change. These negotiations got here at a low level in relations between the 2 nations.
What to Know Concerning the Brittney Griner Case
The sentence imposed on Ms. Griner, an All-Star middle with the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was harsher than these ordinarily imposed for the drug infraction, consultants say, and critics say Moscow is utilizing her as a political pawn. Her arrest got here simply days earlier than Russia invaded Ukraine.
American officers have repeatedly denounced the therapy of Ms. Griner, and so they did so once more on Wednesday.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, in an announcement, known as Ms. Griner’s switch to a penal colony “one other injustice layered on her ongoing unjust and wrongful detention.” And President Biden directed his administration to “prevail on her Russian captors to enhance her therapy and the circumstances she could also be compelled to endure in a penal colony,” the White Home press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, mentioned in her personal assertion.
Ms. Jean-Pierre mentioned america was “unwavering in its dedication to its work on behalf of Brittney and different Individuals detained in Russia,” together with Paul Whelan, a former Marine who in 2020 was sentenced to 16 years in a high-security Russian jail on espionage expenses.
Russian and American officers have signaled that Ms. Griner’s destiny could also be determined throughout high-level negotiations over a possible change for Russian inmates held in america. However these talks couldn’t start in earnest till the authorized course of was accomplished, Russia officers mentioned.
That’s now the case, however for the second, Ms. Griner’s whereabouts is prone to be shrouded in thriller.
President Biden mentioned in a information convention on Wednesday that he hoped the negotiations may enter a brand new section, now that the midterm elections had been over. “My guess is, my hope is, that now that the election is over, that Mr. Putin will be capable to focus on with us and be keen to speak extra critically a few prisoner change,” he mentioned, referring to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
Drawn-out transfers to a penal colony are a longtime observe in Russia, as they had been within the Soviet Union earlier than it. The method is named staging.
The Plight of Brittney Griner in Russia
The American basketball star has endured months in a Russian jail on expenses of smuggling cannabis oil into the nation.
Prisoners are usually not allowed to speak with the surface world for per week or two whereas they’re moved, and legal professionals and members of the family have no idea the place they’re going, studying wherein penal colony the sentence can be served solely as soon as a prisoner arrives.
“As we work by means of this very tough section of not understanding precisely the place B.G. is or how she is doing,” Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Ms. Griner’s agent, mentioned in an announcement, “we ask for the general public’s help in persevering with to write down letters and categorical their love and look after her.”
The W.N.B.A. gamers’ union, the Ladies’s Nationwide Basketball Gamers Affiliation, responded to the penal colony information by saying: “We stand with Brittney Griner and can proceed to name on all Individuals and the worldwide sports activities neighborhood to do the identical with much more vigilance. We’re crushed that this scary, seemingly unending nightmare continues. The shortage of readability and transparency within the course of compounds the ache.”
Penal colonies are infamous for abusive therapy of inmates, overcrowding and harsh circumstances. Political prisoners like Aleksei A. Navalny and members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot have beforehand been despatched to them to serve sentences.
At any given time, there are normally round 350 foreigners from what the Russians name “far overseas,” that means nations that weren’t a part of the Soviet Union, serving sentences in penal colonies, jail officers have mentioned. Normally, a few third are jailed on drug expenses, they mentioned.
Requested whether or not foreigners are handled any in another way, a senior official with Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service mentioned some years in the past that they weren’t. The one distinction is that they’ve a proper to visits from consular officers from their house nation, the official, Sergey Esipov, was quoted as telling the RIA Novosti information company.
“There are not any particular circumstances,” he mentioned. “All foreigners serve their sentences on the grounds and within the method prescribed by Russian legislation.”
Reporting was contributed by Neil MacFarquhar, Ivan Nechepurenko, Ruth Maclean and Andrew E. Kramer.