Brittney Griner Is Freed in Prisoner Swap With Russia, White House Announces

Russia detained Griner for possession of 0.7 ounces of hashish oil, sentencing her to 9 years in jail.

U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner, who had been detained in Russia since February, has been launched as a part of a prisoner alternate between Russia and the U.S., the Biden administration introduced on Thursday.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion, had traveled to Russia for years in the course of the WNBA’s low season to play for a Russian crew. She was detained by Russian authorities earlier this 12 months after 0.7 ounces of hashish oil have been present in her baggage, which she defined throughout her trial had been left there accidentally.

Griner was sentenced by a Russian court docket to 9 years imprisonment, and was despatched to a jail work camp final month.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden introduced that Griner had been launched from Russia and was heading again to the U.S. Her launch was predicated on the alternate of a Russian prisoner, arms vendor Viktor Bout, who had served round 12 years of a 25-year prison sentence.

“Moments in the past I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is protected. She is on a aircraft. She is on her means house,” Biden said in a tweet from his official White House Twitter account.

In feedback he made on the White Home, Biden indicated that Griner was already out of Russia, on a aircraft departing for the U.S. from the United Arab Emirates.

Griner’s spouse, Cherelle Griner, praised the Biden administration for its function in liberating her. “I’m simply standing right here overwhelmed with feelings,” she said.

Biden acknowledged that the alternate for an additional American prisoner in Russia, Paul Whelan, could not be negotiated at this time, with White Home officers telling CNN that Moscow wouldn’t budge on his launch.

“Whereas we have now not but succeeded in securing Paul’s launch, we’re not giving up,” Biden stated. “We are going to by no means hand over.”

Whelan’s household stated they have been “devastated” that he couldn’t be included within the deal however expressed happiness that Griner had been launched. His household added that the Biden administration made “the right decision” in facilitating the alternate for Griner’s freedom.

A number of right-wing commentators have attacked Griner’s character all through her ordeal in Russia, deriding her advocacy to spotlight police brutality towards Black folks in america.

These assaults continued on Thursday. Donald Trump Jr., for instance, disparaged news of Griner’s release, describing her as an “America hating WNBA activist” on Thursday morning.

Different far proper media have condemned actions by the Biden administration all year long as officers tried to facilitate Griner’s launch. “In no way ought to the Democratic Celebration’s identification politics enable a black lesbian millionaire athlete who broke the regulation in another country to obtain preferential remedy,” The Washington Free Beacon’s editorial board wrote this previous summer time.

A number of activists and commentators in assist of the WNBA star have acknowledged the assaults towards Griner for what they’re: politically motivated statements rooted in racism, sexism and homophobia. Possible due to her race, each Russia and the U.S. performed a task within the size of her detention, some have stated, noting that a white woman who was arrested in Russia under the same circumstances in 2019 was launched after simply two months.

“Russia is utilizing Brittney Griner as a result of she’s a Black girl and the rationale it’s not an even bigger story within the media in America is as a result of she’s a Black girl,” said activist and former Ohio state lawmaker Nina Turner in June.

In an op-ed for MSNBC earlier this year, freelance author and illustrator Natalie Johnson famous that Griner probably went to Russia within the first place as a result of feminine athletes within the U.S. receives a commission considerably lower than their male counterparts. Her nearly-year-long detention was maybe reflective of “the vulnerability that always comes with being a Black girl,” Johnson stated.