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Thursday, December 01, 2022

Brittany Griner was transferred to a penal colony in the Russian region of Mordovia

Brittany Griner was transferred to a penal colony in the Russian region of Mordovia

(CNN) — WNBA star Brittany Griner has been transferred to a penal colony in Yavvas in Russia’s western Mordovia region, her lawyers said Thursday, ending days of speculation about her whereabouts.

His lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, thanked everyone who came out in support.

“First of all, on behalf of Britney, we would like to thank everyone who has expressed their love for her,” he said in a statement. “We can confirm that Britney has started serving her sentence at IK-2 in Mordovia.

“We visited earlier this week. Britney is doing as expected and trying to stay strong while adjusting to a new environment. As this is a very challenging period for her, no further Will not comment. US”.

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

“However, the Russian Federation has not yet given any official notification for such movement of a US citizen, to which we strongly protest. The embassy continues to press for more information regarding his transfer and current location,” said a US State Department spokesperson.

Griner’s representatives previously confirmed that she had been transferred from a detention center in Iksha on 4 November, and was destined for a penal colony, but “we have no information about her current location or final destination”. No. According to standard Russian procedure, the lawyers as well as the US Embassy must be notified upon arrival at your destination. Notification is sent by official mail and usually takes up to two weeks to be received.

Her agent, Lindsay Colas, said the Olympic gold medalist and one-time WNBA champion is trying to stay strong after nine months apart from loved ones.

“At this time, we will not be sharing any further details, but we want to express our deepest thanks to the Biden administration, the Richardson Center, and everyone who has offered words of encouragement,” he said. “Letters have poured in from all over the world and BG has received support. Every letter matters and we encourage everyone to write in and share their support.”

The Richardson Center for Global Engagement “promotes global peace and dialogue by identifying and working on opportunities for engagement and citizen diplomacy with countries and communities that are not typically open to more formal diplomatic channels,” its website says .

Colas said earlier this week that the main concern is for Griner’s health and well-being.

While conditions in Russia’s penal colonies vary, political prisoners are often held in harsh conditions, where they may be subjected to “solitary confinement or punitive stays in psychiatric units,” the State Department human rights report says.

Tough conditions for Brittany Griner in a Russian penal colony 3:27

The report states that Russian law also allows for forced labor in penal colonies and that in some cases prisoners have been tortured to death. There are also reports of prison officials recruiting prisoners to misbehave with other prisoners, the report said.

That Griner’s team did not know his whereabouts was not unusual. According to Amnesty International, transfers to penal colonies in Russia are secretive processes, and relatives and lawyers are often unaware of where a prisoner is sent for several days.

Last month, Griner lost his appeal against a nine-year drug sentence. He was arrested in February and sentenced in August after admitting to possessing vape cartridges containing cannabis. He apologized repeatedly for bringing small amounts of the substance into the country where he played basketball in spring training.

Mordovia is the same region where American Paul Whelan is being held. The former US Marine is serving a 16-year sentence in a separate penal colony on charges of espionage, which he denies.

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

According to a report by the Poland-based think tank Center for Oriental Studies, better known as OSW, most prisons in Russia are penal colonies, where prisoners are kept in barracks and often put to work. The organization said that as of 2019, more than 800 such facilities existed across Russia.

Built during the Soviet Union, most of the colonies have been compared to Soviet-era gulags; Prison camps sprang up throughout the region during the regime of Joseph Stalin in the mid-20th century.

Not all is over for Brittany Griner after her sentencing 0:59

According to World Prison Brief, Russia has about half a million prisoners, one of the highest rates in Europe, but unlike most of the world, numbers have declined in recent years.

The level of supervision and restrictions imposed on prisoners today depends on the facility to which they are sentenced. Not everyone needed manpower, but many high-profile dissidents, activists and foreign nationals who were deported to the colonies describe harrowing and difficult experiences.

Prisoners are often moved long distances across the country. According to Amnesty International, the journey to the colonies is dangerous and can take up to a month. OSW found that travel often takes place in overcrowded train cars, and prisoners often arrive at overcrowded facilities with poor and outdated infrastructure.

“Despite various efforts to reform the prison system in Russia, it still resembles the Soviet Gulag,” the organization said. “Human rights violations and torture are common.”

CNN’s Matthew Chance, Zahra Ullah, Anna Chernova, Abby Phillips and Ria Mogul contributed to this report.

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