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Pussy Riot member who spent two years in a penal colony in Russia on what Brittney Griner could face

Nov 11, 2022 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
View the original article here.

“For 100 women, there are like three toilets and no hot water. The cynical thing is, the work the state provides to the prisoners is sewing uniforms for Russian police and the Russian army”

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A member of the Russian feminist group Pussy Riot, who spent almost two years in a penal colony, says she expects WNBA star Brittney Griner will experience labour camp-type conditions as she arrives at an unnamed facility where she could potentially spend the next nine years.

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In an interview with National Public Radio, Maria Alyokhina of the Moscow-based feminist protest and performance art group said Griner should expect forced labour, living in barracks with beds for 80 to 100 women, bathing once a week and having very few, if any, amenities.

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“For 100 women, there are like three toilets and no hot water,” Alyokhina told NPR, which reached her while on tour in the U.K. “This is a really terrible institution which we received from [the] Soviet Union and it’s totally inhuman,” she said. “The cynical thing is, the work the state provides to the prisoners is sewing uniforms for Russian police and the Russian army,” she claimed.

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“This is a legal slavery system. There’s nothing about correction or improvement of people’s behaviour,” she told NPR.

In 2012, Alyokhina was convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred in connection with a protest performance in a church. She received the minimum two-year sentence for the offence, NPR reported at the time.

Figures for Russian incarceration note there were 468,237 imprisoned people in the country, including pre-trial detainees and remand prisoners, in 2020.

Alyokhina encouraged Griner’s supporters to keep voicing concern, writing letters and applying pressure to get her home.

FILE: US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner looks from inside a defendants’ cage before a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 26, 2022. /
FILE: US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner looks from inside a defendants’ cage before a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 26, 2022. / Photo by ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

At a recent press conference, President Joe Biden said of Griner, “My intention is to get her home,” adding that officials have been engaged in talks on the matter.

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“My hope is that now that the election is over that Mr. Putin will be able to discuss with us and be willing to talk more seriously about prisoner exchange,” he said.

A statement by White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre notes “every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long.” Members of the administration, as directed by the president, plan “to prevail on her Russian captors to improve her treatment and the conditions she may be forced to endure in a penal colony.”

Aloykhina’s view is it’s unlikely Griner will receive any special treatment. “It doesn’t matter the citizenship of the prisoner,” she told NPR, advising the basketball player “to not forget yourself and not lose your freedom.”

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This past February, the basketball star was arrested for travelling with a cannabis vape cartridge in her luggage. In August, Griner was sentenced, as well as ordered to pay almost $21,000, after being found guilty of deliberately bringing cannabis-infused vape cartridges into the country, according to Reuters.

Although possessing more than seven grams of cannabis could result in up to two years of “corrective labour,” Reason reports, Russian authorities claimed the basketball star had smuggled a “significant amount” of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years.

ESPN noted this week the transfer to the penal colony took Griner’s lawyers and family, as well as U.S. government officials, by surprise.

Her lawyers noted in a statement to CNN on Nov. 9 that “we do not have any information on her exact current location or her final destination,” adding that the standard Russian procedure is to notify by mail the defendant’s attorneys and the U.S. Embassy upon arriving at the destination.

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