Brittney Griner: Russian court sets appeal hearing for October

A Russian court has set Oct. 25 as the date for an appeal hearing in the case of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to serve nine years in prison for drug possession, according to The Associated Press.

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Griner pleaded guilty over the summer and was convicted in August, six months after police said they found cannabis vape cartridges in Griner’s luggage at a Moscow airport, NPR reported.

During her trial, the Phoenix Mercury center said that she had not meant to bring cannabis — which is an illegal substance in Russia — while traveling into the country to play basketball during the U.S. offseason, according to Reuters. She said that she “was in a rush packing” and recovering from COVID-19, adding that she must have inadvertently put the cartridges in her bag.

Attorneys for Griner appealed her conviction in August, the AP reported.

State Department officials previously classified Griner as wrongfully detained by Russia. Authorities have been working toward a possible prisoner exchange for her release and the release of fellow American Paul Whelan.

Whelan traveled to Russia as a tourist in 2018 and was arrested on allegations of espionage. In 2020, he was convicted of spying and sentenced to serve 16 years.