Brittney Griner has been transferred to a penal colony in western Russia, her lawyers say

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CNN

American basketball star Brittney Griner has been transferred to a penal colony in Yavas, in western Russia’s Mordovia region, her lawyers said Thursday, ending days of speculation about her whereabouts.

Her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, thanked everyone who reached out.

“First of all, on behalf of Brittney, we would like to thank everyone who cared about her,” they said in a statement. “We can confirm that Brittney started serving her sentence at IK-2 in Mordovia.

“We visited her at the beginning of this week. Brittney is doing as well as expected, trying to stay strong as she adjusts to a new environment. Given that this is a very challenging period for her, there will be no further comments from us.

On Wednesday, the US State Department said it had been in touch with Griner’s legal team and was aware of reports that she had been sent to a penal colony about seven hours southeast of Moscow.

Watch Brittney Griner speak before the Russian court upheld her conviction

“However, the Russian Federation has still not issued any official notice for such relocation of a US citizen, to which we strongly protest. The embassy has continued to press for more information about her transfer and current whereabouts,” said a spokesperson.

Griner representatives previously confirmed that she was transferred from a detention center in Iksha on November 4 — and that she was destined for a penal colony — but “we have no information about her exact current location or her final destination. In accordance with standard Russian procedure, the lawyers, as well as the US Embassy, ​​must be notified upon arrival at her destination. Notice is given by official mail and normally takes up to two weeks to receive.

The Olympic gold medalist and one-time WNBA champion is trying to stay strong after being separated from her loved ones for nine months, her agent, Lindsay Colas, said.

“At this time we will not be sharing any further details, but we would like to express our deepest gratitude to the Biden administration, the Richardson Center and everyone who has reached out to encourage her,” she said. Letters have been pouring in from all over the world and BG has been buoyed by the aid. Every letter is important and we encourage everyone to keep writing and share your support.”

The Richardson Center for Global Engagement “promotes global peace and dialogue by identifying and working on areas of engagement and citizen diplomacy with countries and communities not usually open to more formal diplomatic channels,” according to the website.

The primary concern was Griner’s health and well-being, Colas said earlier this week.

While conditions vary by Russian penal colony, political prisoners are often placed in squalid conditions where they may be subjected to “solitary confinement or penal stays in psychiatric wards,” according to the State Department’s human rights report.

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Bill Richardson suggests that Griner and Whelan could be released by the end of the year

Russian law also allows forced labor in penal colonies, and in some cases prisoners have been tortured to death, the report said. There are also reports of prison authorities recruiting inmates to abuse other inmates, the report adds.

It’s not uncommon for Griner’s team not to know where she was before. According to Amnesty International, transfers to penal colonies in Russia are secret processes, with family members and lawyers often unaware of where a prisoner is being sent for days.

Last month, Griner lost her appeal against a nine-year sentence. She was detained in February and sentenced in August after admitting to carrying cannabis vaping cartridges. She has repeatedly apologized for bringing a small amount of the substance into the country where she played off-season basketball.

Mordovia is the same region where American Paul Whelan is being held. The former US Marine is serving 16 years in another penal colony on espionage charges that he denies.

Griner’s detention has raised concerns that she is being used as a political pawn in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Most Russian prisons are penal colonies, where prisoners are housed in barracks and often put to work, according to a report by the Poland-based think tank the Center for Oriental Studies, better known as the OSW. In 2019, there were more than 800 such facilities across Russia, the organization said.

Built during the Soviet Union, most of the colonies have been compared to Soviet-era gulags; prison camps that expanded across the region during the reign of Josef Stalin in the mid-20th century.

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Biden meets families of Russian detainees

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– Source: CNN

Russia houses nearly half a million prisoners in its facilities, one of the highest percentages in Europe, according to the World Prison Brief, but the number has declined in recent years — unlike most parts of the world.

The level of supervision and restrictions imposed on detainees today depends on the institution to which they are sentenced. Not all require labor, but several high-profile dissidents, activists, and foreigners sent to colonies describe harrowing and difficult experiences.

Detainees are often transported across the country over great distances. Travel to colonies is dangerous and can take up to a month, according to Amnesty International. The journeys often take place in cramped train cars, and inmates often arrive in overcrowded facilities with poor and outdated infrastructure, the OSW found.

“Despite several attempts to reform the prison system in Russia, they still resemble the Soviet gulag,” the organization said. “Human rights violations and torture are common.”

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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