Brittney is used to pressure, but not this kind of pressure. Her verdict today was a game-changing situation in her life. And not in a good way. She was sentenced to 9.5 years in a penal colony in Russia for drug charges. She was accused of trying to smuggle about one gram of cannabis oil into Russia that she accidentally packed in her luggage. Judge Anna Sotnikova delivered the sentence. She also fined Brittney 1 million rubles, about $16,400.
What is A Penal Colony?
The penal colony where Brittney is now a prisoner, not waiting for trial anymore, is not the best of prisons. The penal colonies are surrounded by fences, walls, and barbed wire. In addition, it is where some prisoners are tortured and beaten by other inmates. So, imagine being the newbie on the block. Furthermore, prisoners work between 12 and 16 hours daily doing soft labor tasks.
Konstantin Kotov, a Russian activist, spent 18 months in one of these penal camps for participating in an unofficial demonstration in 2019. In 2021, he told the Associated Press that the facilities and the meals were “more-or-less decent.” However, he noted that the medical system in Russian penal camps was bad and very slow. He commented about having to wait months to have a simple rash analyzed. Unfortunately, they discovered it was a mite bite that caused scabies.
According to Kotov, the correctional officers at the colony would scold detainees for inconsequential simple things. Sometimes prisoners would forget to greet an officer or not wear gloves in the cold. Kotov said, “What’s most important about these reprimands is that they use them to strip you of a chance to get parole. So, if you fail to greet an officer, you will stay behind bars for the end of your term.”
USA’s Response to Brittney
Many US officials and politicians spoke out, saying that Britney was being held as a pawn for negotiations and was unacceptable. Biden angrily said he was doing everything he could in his power to bring her home. And that she was wrongfully detained and needs to be released now.
Antony Blinken criticized Russia, saying that the Russian government is holding Brittney for wrongful intentions to advance their agenda. He is working tirelessly to bring Britney and Paul Whelan back. Paul has been held in Russia for espionage since 2018. Blinken said that the prisoner swap was still open. However, it’s up to Russia to make the deal because it is on the table.
To recap the prisoner swap, the US plans to trade a Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout, for Brittney and Paul. Viktor has been in jail for 25 years, accused of selling arms to terrorists to murder United States citizens.
Following her guilty verdict, her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said they would appeal the decision and criticized the court for ignoring cause and evidence. They have ten days to submit their intentions. Boykov also commented that the verdict was ridiculous. Because in cases like this, sentencing is usually five years or less, and less than half get parole.
Brittney’s lawyers felt all the issues and evidence in the case were not being considered. For example, she did not understand why she was being detained when she was detained.
She tried to use the google translator on her phone, but it was not working correctly. After that, her phone was taken from her, and Brittney was placed in a room and forced to sign documents. There was no lawyer or translator present.
She was never read her rights. And according to Russian law, detainees need to be aware of their rights within hours of detainment.
Her drug test came out negative.
Her prescription was not illegal, and for medical marijuana that was accidentally packed in her bag while rushing to the airport.
She has given many donations to Russian sports organizations and other charities.
She admitted guilt but had no intention of breaking the law.
Time Will Tell
As of now, support is pouring out rapidly to free Brittney. Her teammates, fans, the WNBA, etc., are all standing behind her. Although support is strong, Russia will not bend its knee. The Kremlin said scream as loud as you want; that will not help free Brittney nor negotiations. The Kremlin said the talks must be behind closed doors, not thrown into the shouting media.
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