The United States government has reportedly proposed a prisoner exchange in order to free queer Olympic basketballer Brittney Griner from Russia. This news comes after Russian prosecutors accused Griner of attempting to smuggle less than one gram of cannabis oil in her luggage while travelling through Moscow airport in February.
President Joe Biden has allegedly proposed that Viktor Bout, an infamous arms dealer, be transferred to Russian custody in exchange for Griner’s freedom. Bout was arrested in 2008 on suspicion of smuggling weapons to Colombian revolutionaries. He was then extradited to the US, where he is currently serving a 25-year sentence for conspiracy and terrorism.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told reporters that Biden “was not only directly involved, he signs off on any proposal that we make, and certainly when it comes to Americans who are being arbitrarily detained abroad, including in this specific case.”
TIME's new cover: Brittney Griner's fight for freedom https://t.co/TjijcwC407 pic.twitter.com/K9slJM4Vg4
— TIME (@TIME) July 27, 2022
However, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has told the Moscow press that he was surprised that US officials have spoken about the proposal, saying: “So far there are no agreements in this area, when discussing such topics, you don’t conduct information attacks.”
Griner’s lawyer Maria Blagovolina has weighed in on the proposal, explaining: “From a legal point of view, an exchange is only possible after a court verdict”.
She also added, “We continue to insist that, by indiscretion, in a hurry, she packed her suitcase and did not pay attention to the fact that substances allowed for use in the United States ended up in this suitcase and arrived in the Russian Federation.”
The Olympic gold medalist pleaded guilty earlier this month to charges that her luggage contained cartridges of hashish oil. She has stated that “there was no intent” to break the law and said she still doesn’t know how the oil got in her bag.
Throughout the trial, Brittney Griner has testified that she has a doctor’s prescription for medical cannabis which she uses to treat knee pain joint inflammation.
Griner’s legal team expects her trial to conclude this month, with the basketballer facing up to 10 years in prison.
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