The legal defense team for imprisoned WNBA star Brittney Griner is filing an appeal against her conviction of cannabis possession in Russia.
The appeal comes less than two weeks after Griner was found guilty on cannabis possession charges in a Russian court on Aug. 4. She was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison and fined 1 million rubles ($16,950) by Judge Anna Sotnikova.
Griner was charged with possessing cannabis vape cartridges while traveling through Sheremetyevo International Airport in February near Moscow. Her trial began on July 1 and lasted more than a month before her conviction and sentencing.
Griner, who pleaded guilty to the charges, maintains she made an “honest mistake,” according to NBC News, in traveling through Russia with cannabis products.
Since Griner’s sentencing, U.S. and Russian officials have been discussing potential prisoner swaps, with the U.S. also seeking to free Paul Whelan, a Canadian-born former U.S. Marine who was arrested in 2018 and is being held on espionage charges with a 16-year sentence in Russia.
President Joe Biden issued a statement following the news of Griner’s sentencing, calling for Russia to “release her immediately.”
“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates,” Biden said. “My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”