A Russian court on Monday scheduled Brittney Griner’s appeal hearing for October 25, as the American basketball star seeks to overturn her nine-year prison sentence on drug charges.
According to the Associated Press, the “Moscow region court said it will hear her appeal.”
Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison by a Russian court in August after being found guilty on drug possession charges. She was arrested in a Moscow airport back in February after officials found cannabis oil in her luggage.
Griner, widely regarded as one of the greatest women’s basketball players ever, pleaded guilty to the charges in July, but told the court that “there was no intent” and that she “didn’t want to break the law.”
Her arrest, conviction, and ongoing detention have been sharply condemned by the Biden administration, and the situation has emerged as a diplomatic standoff between officials in the United States and Russia.
In May, the U.S. reclassified Griner as “wrongfully detained.”
The United States has discussed a potential prisoner swap with Russia, offering the release of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S., in exchange for Griner and Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen who has been held in Russia since 2018 on espionage charges.
According to various media reports, Russia rejected that offer.
President Joe Biden has faced mounting pressure at home to secure Griner’s release. Griner, a star for the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA and who has played for UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA’s offseason since 2014, sent Biden a handwritten letter in July.
“As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,” Griner said in the letter.
“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees,” she continued. “Please do all you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore. I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to Griner’s wife, Cherelle, shortly after receiving the letter.
Last month, Biden met face-to-face with the families of both Griner and Whelan.
“He wanted to let them know that they remain front of mind and that his team is working on this every day, on making sure that Brittney and Paul return home safely,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said of the meetings.
Following Griner’s sentencing in August, Biden called the court’s decision “unacceptable” and called on Russia “to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.”
“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,” Biden said in a statement at the time.
“My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible,” the president continued.
Before she was sentenced, Griner offered an emotional apology to the court.
“I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my fans and the city of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them,” Griner said at the time. “I want to also apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing spouse back at home.”