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Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner transferred to Russian penal colony

Griner pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges in July. She lost an appeal of her 9-year prison sentence in late October.

PHOENIX — Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner is being transferred from a detention facility to a penal colony, her Russian legal team announced late Tuesday night. The transfer process started Friday, a day after U.S. officials visited her. The move means Griner’s lawyers no longer know where she is or where she’s heading.

Griner’s attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, say, “Brittney was transferred from the detention center in Iksha on the 4th November. She is now on her way to a penal colony. We do not have any information on her exact current location or her final destination. In accordance with the standard Russian procedure, the attorneys, as well as the U.S. Embassy, should be notified upon her arrival at her destination. Notification is given via official mail and normally takes up to two weeks to be received.”

RELATED: What is a Russian penal colony?

RELATED: US Embassy officials visit Brittney Griner in Russia prison

Russia has more than 600 corrective colonies according to the World Prison Brief. Russian penal colonies are known for having extremely harsh conditions – much worse than the Moscow jail where Griner has been wrongfully detained since February. The New York Times reports penal colonies in Russia are forced labor camps with dorm-style barracks, often associated with brutality and harsh conditions. Most penal colonies are located in isolated areas.

Griner pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges in July. She lost an appeal of her 9-year prison sentence in late October. The eight-time all-star center and two-time Olympic gold medalist was convicted on Aug. 4 after police said they found cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage at a Moscow airport. U.S. officials have said they made a "serious" offer to trade for Griner's freedom in June, but have reportedly not yet received a legitimate counteroffer.

RELATED: Russian court rejects Brittney Griner appeal against 9-year sentence

In a statement released late Tuesday, Griner's agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said, “Our primary concern continues to be BG’s health and well-being. As we work through this very difficult phase of not knowing exactly where BG is or how she is doing, we ask for the public’s support in continuing to write letters and express their love and care for her. Our team remains in close contact with the U.S. Government and Richardson Center, who are using all available resources to determine her whereabouts, ensure her safety, and bring her home. We are thankful for everyone’s support, and hope that as we near nine months of detention, that BG and all wrongfully detained Americans will be shown mercy and returned home to their families for the holidays.”

The White House released the following statement: 

"Every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long. As the Administration continues to work tirelessly to secure her release, the President has directed the Administration to prevail on her Russian captors to improve her treatment and the conditions she may be forced to endure in a penal colony. As we have said before, the U.S. Government made a significant offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and wrongful detentions of American citizens. In the subsequent weeks, despite a lack of good faith negotiation by the Russians, the U.S. Government has continued to follow up on that offer and propose alternative potential ways forward with the Russians through all available channels. The U.S. Government is unwavering in its commitment to its work on behalf of Brittney and other Americans detained in Russia – including fellow wrongful detainee Paul Whelan."


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