Late last month, WNBA star Brittney Griner officially received her prison sentence from a Russian court, and will now spend nine years in prison. The harsh sentence came after officials at a Moscow airport found traces of hashish oil within her luggage. Now, after officially hearing her sentence, the renowned basketball player has been moved to a notorious Russian penal colony. Other prisoners there have reportedly complained of unusually harsh conditions.
According to the Daily Mail, Brittney Griner’s whereabouts remain unknown. However, prisoners at this particular colony have spoken out about “slavery-like conditions.”
Unsurprisingly, Griner’s family and fans have been dreading the move, which initially began Friday. Even more shocking, the news outlet states both the athlete’s attorney and U.S. officials were unaware of the move until Tuesday. This is because notifications of prisoner transfers come by mail, which typically takes two weeks.
Prominent Russian Prisoners Speak Out About Penal Colony Conditions
Before Brittney Griner’s prison transfer, prominent public figures, including activists and critics, have spoken out about the country’s penal colonies and their conditions.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who is a member of one of Russia’s leading feminist groups, joined a hunger strike at Penal Colony No. 14 nearly a decade ago. At that time, she spoke about the prison’s inhumane conditions.
“I am convinced that this is my only way out of my current situation,” Nadezhda Tolokonnikova wrote at the time. She promised to “not remain silent, resigned to watch as my fellow prisoners collapse under the strain of slavery-like conditions. I demand that the colony administration respect human rights…I demand that we be treated like human beings, not slaves.”
She also said that while there, she worked in a sewing shop, active for 17 hours a day, while sleeping just four hours at night.
Another prominent Russian figure, Alexei Navalny, who is Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critic, also spoke about the nation’s harsh prison conditions. In a previous Instagram post, he compared one penal colony near Moscow as a “friendly concentration camp.”
“Video cameras are everywhere,” he revealed. “Everyone is watched and at the slightest violation they make a report.”
More sarcastically, he continued, “I think someone upstairs read Orwell’s 1984 and said: ‘Yeah, cool. Let’s do this. Education through dehumanization.'”
Brittney Griner’s Attorneys Share Express Concern for Health & Well-Being
Unfortunately, after a Russian court dismissed Griner’s appeal last month, there is little left for the WNBA star’s attorney and legal team left to do. The following steps remain up to the United States federal government which, at this point, seems as in the dark about Brittney Griner’s location and physical condition as the rest of the world.
As such, her agent said via ESPN, “Our primary concern continues to be BG’s health and well-being. As we work through this very difficult phase of not knowing exactly where BG is or how she is doing, we ask for the public’s support in continuing to write letters and express their love and care for her.”
Meanwhile, U.S. officials last visited Griner on Thursday. Their visit came just a day before authorities moved to the Russian penal colony.