Brittney Griner struggles in Russian jail, ‘not much hope’ ahead of appeal hearing, lawyer says

WNBA star Brittney Griner, who faces nine years in Russian prison, fears she won’t be released, her attorney has told ABC News as the United States works to secure her freedom.

“Her fear of not being released is mainly related to the negotiations, which we are not aware of at all,” Griner’s attorney, Alexandr Boikov, told ABC News on Thursday.

After being detained in Russia for more than five months, Griner was found guilty of drug trafficking by a Moscow region court on August 4 and was sentenced to nine years in prison.

His lawyers filed an appeal on August 15 and a hearing is scheduled for October 25.

“She doesn’t have much hope for the appeal because the first court decision – the verdict showed that the case is totally unfair, even by today’s Russian standards, and we don’t expect a big release , but of course we hope for the best,” Boikov told ABC News.

According to Boikov, decisions on appeals are usually made during a hearing, but other hearings could be scheduled and he expects a decision by the end of October.

Griner, a 31-year-old Houston native who plays professional basketball for the Phoenix Mercury, was arrested Feb. 17 at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Khimki while flying back to Russia to play in the WNBA’s offseason. after being accused of having vape cartridges containing hash oil, which is illegal in the country.

Brittney Griner stands in the defendants’ cage during the reading of the court’s verdict in Khimki, Russia, August 4, 2022.

Evgenia Novozhenina/POOL via Reuters

Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in July, saying the vape cartridges containing hash oil were mistakenly found in her luggage and that she had no “intent” to break Russian law.

Since his arrest in February, Griner has spoken to his wife, Cherelle Griner, only twice and currently “she has no phone calls with her family,” Boikov said.

He added that although requests are not “turned down”, there is “a lot of bureaucracy and paperwork and going back and forth between different institutions”, so scheduling phone calls has been “very difficult”.

Boikov said Griner also felt some physical “pain” in prison, where she was unable to exercise or receive physical therapy.

“She has issues with her knees, with her back, I think basketball related but of course she doesn’t have a big bed or a good mattress or a time or a place to exercise and keep his muscles in shape,” he said.

“Of course, without movement and the conditions in prison, she is not in very good condition,” he added.

PHOTO: Brittney Griner warms up for the in Los Angeles, Aug. 8, 2019.

Brittney Griner warms up for the in Los Angeles, August 8, 2019.

Meg Oliphant/Getty Images, FILE

The U.S. government classified Griner’s case on May 3 as “wrongfully detained,” meaning the U.S. will work more aggressively to negotiate her release even as the court case against her unfolds, the department said. of state.

Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine began a week after Griner’s arrest, and some officials have expressed concern that Americans imprisoned in Russia could be used as leverage in the ongoing war.

“not with Putin.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday that Biden “has no intention of meeting with President Putin.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price told ABC News on Wednesday that “securing the release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner is a priority for this administration.”

Asked about Griner’s condition and whether the United States has access to her in prison, Price said “the most recent consular access with Brittney Griner was in early August.”

“We continue to impose on the Russian government the need for consistency and regular consular access to Brittney Griner but also to all Americans detained in Russia,” he added.

ABC News’ Tanya Stukalova, Shannon Crawford and Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.

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