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WNBA star Brittney Griner is “stressed” as she awaits her appeal after being sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison for deliberately smuggling drugs into the country.
“Brittney is stressed and very much concerned with the future,” her lawyer Maria Blagovolina, a partner at Rybalkin Gortsunyan Dyakin and Partners, told PEOPLE. “We need to use every legal opportunity that we have, and appeal is one of these opportunities,” she added.
Last month, Griner’s legal team appealed her conviction, calling her sentence “absolutely unreasonable.”
Ahead of her sentencing, Griner made a plea to the court for leniency.
“I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here,” said Griner. “I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here. I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope that is far from this courtroom.
“I want to say again that I had no intent on breaking any Russian laws. I had no intent. I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime,” she added.
This week Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the UN who has negotiated the release of several American citizens held in other countries, traveled to Russia to try and negotiate the release of Griner and one other American prisoner.
Moscow indicated that it was seeking the release of Viktor Bout, a notorious arms trafficker. Bout was sentenced to 25 years in U.S. prison in 2012 on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, and provide material support to a terrorist organization.