Foreigners serve sentences in the manner prescribed by Russian law

Lee Heidhues 11.11.2022

Brittney Griner, the American basketball star, has been transferred to a Russian penal colony to serve what could be a nine year prison sentence.

Her arrest, sham trial and imprisonment by Vladimir Putin is a human rights outrage. The worldwide media has paid some, but not enough, attention to this crime against humanity.

At this point it is painfully obvious that Putin is not going to release this American woman. Brittney Griner never should have been arrested, jailed, tried in a kangaroo Russian Court and sent to Prison.

The world must continue speaking out and demand her release.

Excerpted from New York Times 11.9.2022

Wherever Brittney Griner was on Wednesday, one thing was clear: The American basketball star imprisoned by Russia was not heading back home, despite a concerted U.S. campaign to win her freedom.

Ms. Griner was instead being transferred from a jail outside Moscow and thrust into Russia’s vast and opaque penal colony system, lawyers said.

Beyond that, little was known.

American basketball star in handcuffs on the way to a Russian penal colony

Asked whether foreigners are treated any differently, a senior official with Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service said some years ago that they were not. The only difference is that they have a right to visits from consular officials from their home country, the official, Sergey Esipov, was quoted as telling the RIA Novosti news agency.

“There are no special conditions,” he said. “All foreigners serve their sentences on the grounds and in the manner prescribed by Russian law.”

Ms. Griner’s legal team said in a statement that her intended destination was unknown and that it expected to be officially notified, along with the U.S. Embassy, once she had arrived. The process can take up to two weeks.

Brittney Griner in happier days as a professional basketball All Star

American officials have repeatedly denounced the treatment of Ms. Griner, and they did so again on Wednesday.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, in a statement, called Ms. Griner’s transfer to a penal colony “another injustice layered on her ongoing unjust and wrongful detention.” And President Biden directed his administration to “prevail on her Russian captors to improve her treatment and the conditions she may be forced to endure in a penal colony,” the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said in her own statement.

Ms. Jean-Pierre said the United States was “unwavering in its commitment to its work on behalf of Brittney and other Americans detained in Russia,” including Paul Whelan, a former Marine who in 2020 was sentenced to 16 years in a high-security Russian prison on espionage charges.

Penal colonies are notorious for abusive treatment of inmates, overcrowding and harsh conditions. Political prisoners like Aleksei A. Navalny and members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot have previously been sent to them to serve sentences.

At any given time, there are usually around 350 foreigners from what the Russians call “far abroad,” meaning countries that were not part of the Soviet Union, serving sentences in penal colonies, prison officials have said. Usually, about a third are jailed on drug charges, they said.