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U.S. Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion Brittney Griner could risk up to five years in a Russian labor camp after she was arrested in the country last month, an expert said.
Griner, a 31-year-old Phoenix Mercury basketball star, has not been seen since she was arrested in Russia last month after Russian officials allegedly found vape cartridges in her luggage and accused her of trying to smuggle drugs into the country.
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Russian law expert Peter Maggs of the University of Illinois College of Law predicted that her pending lawsuit could result in a 5 to 10-year prison sentence, which could also include time spent in a labor camp or a complete dismissal and export from the country.
“You’re talking about five years, not jail, but a labor camp,” he said. “One thing I find a little worrying is this extension of her provisional possession from two months to three months because one has to go to a higher authority to get it extended.”
“It is illegal to bring all kinds of drugs into the country [Russia]including cannabis oil, “said Maggs.
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The law professor also speculated that Griner could be completely innocent in the charges against her, as Russian authorities are known to plant drugs on people to arrest them under false pretenses, “if the regime wanted to get them in trouble.”
“We do not know what really happened,” he added.
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The WNBA issued a statement calling the international arrest “extremely difficult,” but added that they were working closely with the U.S. government to get Griner back safely.
“This continues to be a complex situation that is extremely difficult for Brittney, her family and anyone hoping for a speedy solution,” the statement said, according to Reuters. “Our first priority remains her safe return.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.