Region:
USA
Category:
Politics

Brittney Griner arrives in US after prisoner exchange with Russia

  • Brittney Griner arrives in US after prisoner exchange with Russia
    Basketball star lands at Texas airbase after being swapped for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout Brittney Griner arrives in US after prisoner exchange with Russia
Region:
USA
Category:
Politics
Publication date:
Print article

Basketball star lands at Texas airbase after being swapped for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout

The American basketball star Brittney Griner returned to the US early on Friday after being freed in a high-profile prisoner exchange from nearly 10 months in detention in Russia.

The deal, in which she was swapped for the Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, secured the release of the most prominent American detained abroad and achieved a top goal for Joe Biden. But Washington failed to win freedom for another US citizen, Paul Whelan, who has been jailed for nearly four years.

Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Baylor University All-American and Phoenix Mercury pro basketball star. Her status as an openly gay Black woman, locked up in a country where authorities have been hostile to the LBGTQ community, injected racial, gender and social dynamics into her legal saga and brought unprecedented attention to the population of wrongful detainees.

Biden’s authorisation to release Bout, once nicknamed “the merchant of death”, underscored the heightened urgency that his administration faced to get Griner home, particularly after the recent resolution of her criminal case on drug charges and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony.

Griner was seen getting off a plane at joint base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.

The athlete, who also played pro basketball in Russia, was arrested at an airport there in February after authorities said she was carrying vape canisters with cannabis oil. Before her conviction, the US state department declared her to be wrongfully detained, a charge that Russia has sharply rejected.

In releasing Bout, the US freed a former Soviet army lieutenant colonel whom the Justice Department once described as one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers. He was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and extradited to the US in 2010.

Bout was serving a 25-year sentence on charges that he conspired to sell tens of millions of dollars in weapons that US officials said were to be used against Americans.