Brittney Griner’s plane touches down in US

The plane’s landing put an end to a months-long story that had been public for months, since Griner’s arrest in February.

SAN ANTONIO — American basketball star Brittney Griner returned to the United States early Friday after being released in a high-profile prisoner exchange after nearly 10 months in detention in Russia.

The deal, in which she was swapped with notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, ensured the release of the most famous American held abroad and a top goal for President Joe Biden. But the United States failed to free another American, Paul Whelan, who was jailed for nearly four years.

Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Baylor University and Phoenix Mercury all-American professional basketball star. Her identity as an openly gay Black woman, locked up in a country where the government is hostile to the LGBTQ community, brings racial, gender, and social dynamics into the narrative. her law and brought unprecedented attention to the community of those who were wrongly detained.

Biden’s permission to release Bout, the Russian criminal once nicknamed the “Death Trader,” underscores the extreme urgency his administration faces to bring Griner home. especially after her drug-related criminal case was recently resolved and her subsequent sentencing. colony.

Griner was seen getting off a plane that landed Friday at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.

The athlete, who also plays professional basketball in Russia, was arrested at an airport there in February after Russian authorities said she was carrying a vape canister containing cannabis oil. Before his conviction, the US State Department claimed Griner was “wrongfully detained” – an allegation Russia has strongly denied.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the swap on Thursday, saying in a statement published by Russian news agencies that the exchange took place in Abu Dhabi and that Bout had been brought home.

Biden spoke on the phone with Griner. US officials said she would receive specialized medical advice and services.

In releasing Bout, the United States released a former Soviet Army lieutenant colonel, who 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 is serving a 25-year prison sentence for conspiring to sell tens of millions of dollars in weapons that US officials say will be used against Americans.

After Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February, she pleaded guilty in July but still faces trial for admitting guilt in Russia’s justice system doesn’t automatically close a case. .

She admitted in court that she was in possession of canisters of cannabis oil but said she had no intention of committing a crime and that she had unknowingly packed them. Her defense team presented written statements that she was prescribed marijuana to treat the pain.

Tucker reports from Washington. Brittney Griner’s plane touches down in US

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