WNBA star Britney Griner is escorted from a Russian courtroom after a hearing in Khimki a suburb of Moscow on Aug 4, 2022. Griner this week was transferred to a undisclosed location to a penal colony. (AP News file)
By Amaury Pi Gonzalez
Brittney Griner has been sent to a Russian penal colony. In an court appearance Griner admitted to mistakenly packing two vape cartridges in her luggage and provided documents that showed the hash oil was legally prescribed by her US doctor for pain management. The WNBA Phoenix Mercury star was sentenced to nine years.
According to rights group Amnesty International, conditions in these colonies and prisons are among the worst in Europe. The facilities are located in remote locations, far from cities, making it difficult for family or human rights workers to visit. This form of isolation is believed to be part of the punishment of pseudo-exile. There are about 700 penal colonies in Russia and close to one million prisoners, making it the most common imprisonment institution.
These penal colonies in Russia are infamous for harsh conditions and forced labor. Sleep deprivation torture is one of many tactics with little medical treatment. An estimated 18 million people were sentenced to gulags between 1929 and 1953, until the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. About 1.6 million died in work camps. When Griner was arrested the Russia-Ukraine war was beginning, with no resolution it is a war that could go on for a longtime and she was caught in the middle of an international situation.
Although Griner was not that well known in the US and other parts of the world because the WNBA is not the NBA and gets little publicity and coverage still she was in Russia to play basketball to supplement her WNBA salary which is a six-figure salary instead of the approximately $1.5 million she normally earns in Russia.
This could have been avoided if Brittney Griner understood the laws of Russia, which are totally different to the US. For example; cannabis is in fact, illegal in Russia, a country with over 145 million people and largest country in size in all of Europe.
Russia is known for having the highest number of people currently (per capita) imprisoned for drug offenses. When a US citizen travels outside the US he/she is subjected to the laws of whichever country she visits, as a tourist or to work in the case of Griner.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people forget that other countries have different laws to US laws, and when we travel we have to obey those laws, which is just common sense. It is either ignorance or arrogance (or both), we travel abroad and we must obey the laws or suffer the consequences. Nobody knows how much time Brittney Griner will serve in prison of her nine (9) years sentence, however, we know that the US is strongly supporting Ukraine to the tune of billions of dollars in weapons in their war against Russia.
More than likely Russia will detain Griner until the current war between those two countries comes to a resolution. She is a small piece of the biggest land war in Europe since WWII, but Russia is using her and will continue to use her because that is how Russia and other countries with similar types of governments operate.
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