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Brittney Griner’s location unknown after move to Russian penal colony

(Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Brittney Griner has been transferred to a Russian penal colony, but her legal team and her family do not know her location and may not know for weeks, ESPN’s T.J. Quinn reported early Wednesday morning.

The 32-year-old WNBA star has been detained in Russia since February on drug possession charges. She was convicted in August in a trial U.S. officials and international legal experts have criticized as a sham, and the U.S. government considers her wrongfully detained.

Griner was sentenced to nine years in one of Russia’s penal colonies, which are known for their harsh conditions and abusive treatment of prisoners. And as a gay Black woman, Griner could be a particular target for such treatment, NBC News reported in October.

“Every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Wednesday. “As the Administration continues to work tirelessly to secure her release, the President has directed the Administration to prevail on her Russian captors to improve her treatment and the conditions she may be forced to endure in a penal colony.”

Griner’s transfer began Friday, one day after she received a visit from U.S. embassy officials, her lawyers announced Wednesday in Moscow. But the lawyers and U.S. officials did not learn of the transfer until Tuesday.

The transfer also came much earlier than anticipated. Such transfers usually take weeks or months, her lawyers said, but Griner’s appeal of her sentence was rejected on Oct. 25, less than two weeks before her transfer.

Her legal team and her family still do not know exactly where the WNBA star is or her destination, and they could remain in the dark for weeks.

“Notification is given via official mail and normally takes up to two weeks to be received.” her lawyers said.

Griner’s family declined to provide a statement Tuesday night after the news of Griner’s transfer became public, ESPN reported.

Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said in a statement Tuesday night that her team remains in “close contact” with both U.S. government and the Richardson Center, an organization run by former United Nations ambassador Bill Richardson that works to free Americans detained in other countries.

“We are thankful for everyone’s support, and hope that as we near nine months of detention, that BG and all wrongfully detained Americans will be shown mercy and returned home to their families for the holidays,” Colas said.

The WNBA Players Association offered a strong rebuke of Griner’s continued detainment in a statement Wednesday morning.

“We are crushed that this scary, seemingly never-ending nightmare continues,” the WNBPA said. “The lack of clarity and transparency in the process compounds the pain.”