Talks Heat Up Over Brittney Griner Swap For Russian Terrorist As Griner Team Appeals Drug Conviction In Russia
Brittney Griner's wife begged President Biden to help bring her spouse home from Russia, where she is being held on drug charges
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As WNBA star Brittney Griner‘s legal team appeals a drug conviction in Russia, talks are reportedly heating up over a potential prisoner swap between Griner and another Russia-imprisoned American for a notorious Russian terrorist.

Griner this month was sentenced to nine and a half years behind bars for bringing cannabis-infused vape cartridges into Russia. She admitted to the crime but said she did not deliberately break the law, telling the court, “I was in a rush packing and the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bags.”

The athlete’s legal team has appealed the conviction over alleged “serious procedural violations during detention, extraction of physical evidence, arrest and investigation,” Griner lawyer Aleksandr Boikov said, adding that the verdict did “not correspond to the current legal practice of Russian courts.”

The appeal could take up to three months to be adjudicated, the legal team told The New York Times. However, earlier this month, lawyers for Griner said they would withdraw the appeal if it interferes with a potential prisoner exchange process.

According to the Times, talks about exchanging Griner for the Russian terrorist are becoming more open.

High-ranking Russian diplomat Aleksandr Darchiev over the weekend said political negotiations with the U.S. are already underway, the report said.

“The discussion of the quite sensitive topic of prisoner exchange of Russian and American citizens has been ongoing along the channels set out by the two presidents,” Darchiev told Russian state media.

The diplomat confirmed that Russian Viktor Bout, described by the U.S. as “one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers,” is a candidate for the prisoner-swap with Griner and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine convicted in Moscow of espionage charges, which Whelan denies.

Notably, then-Attorney General Eric Holder in November 2011 described Bout as “one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers” who allegedly tried to “sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to terrorists for use in killing Americans.”

“Today, one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers is being held accountable for his sordid past,” Holder said after Bout was convicted on terrorism charges in New York. “Viktor Bout’s arms trafficking activity and support of armed conflicts have been a source of concern around the globe for decades. Today, he faces the prospect of life in prison for his efforts to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to terrorists for use in killing Americans.”

“As the evidence at trial showed, Viktor Bout was ready to sell a weapons arsenal that would be the envy of some small countries,” said then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, according to The Daily Wire.

“He aimed to sell those weapons to terrorists for the purpose of killing Americans,” Bharara continued. “With today’s swift verdict, justice has been done and a very dangerous man will be behind bars. I would like to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents who investigated this case on three different continents and helped to bring Viktor Bout to justice.”

Related: The Merchant Of Death’ For Griner And Whelan: Why The Russian Prisoner Swap Is A Risky Deal

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