A Moscow regional appeals court denied an appeal by WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner on drug charges Tuesday, clearing the way for her to serve nine years in a Russian penal colony unless the U.S. State Department can negotiate a prisoner swap.
Griner, who was playing for a Russian professional team during the WNBA off-season, was arrested just days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on drug-smuggling charges. She was convicted nearly three months ago and sentenced to nine years in prison.
Her lawyers argued that her verdict was unfair and unjustified under Russian law. Griner did not appear at the hearing and participated through a video link. Her attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Aleksandr Boikov, have not said if they would pursue another appeal to a higher court.
U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan called the appeals court decision a “sham judicial proceeding” and reiterated the administration’s position that Griner should be released immediately.