Brittney Griner: Defense team appeals verdict sentencing her to 9 years for drug trafficking

The US State Department argues that Griner is being wrongfully detained and her case has raised concerns that she is being used as a political pawn in Russia’s war on Ukraine. US officials have offered a potential prisoner swap with Russia in an attempt to get her home safely.
Griner, 31, was arrested in February for carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. The two-time U.S. Olympic basketball gold medalist pleaded guilty to drug charges and said she accidentally packaged the drugs while in a hurry.
The nine-year sentence, along with a fine of about $16,400, was handed down on August 4 by Khimki City Court judge Anna Sotnikova, who said the court took into account the partial confession. of Griner’s guilt, his remorse for the act, his medical condition and his charitable activities. .
The name of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout was mentioned during bilateral talks between Moscow and Washington over a prisoner swap involving Griner and American Paul Whelan, the director of the North American department of the Russian Ministry of Affairs said on Saturday. foreign affairs, Alexander Darchiev, to Russian state media TASS. Whelan has been detained by Russia for alleged espionage since 2018.

“This rather sensitive issue of the exchange of convicted Russian and American citizens is being discussed through the channels set by our presidents. These individuals are, indeed, being discussed. The Russian side has long been calling for the release of Viktor The details should be left to the professionals, based on the ‘do no harm’ principle,” Darchiev told TASS.

Darchiev was responding to a request for comment on US reports that US officials had sent a proposal to Moscow regarding the exchange of Bout for Griner and Whelan, TASS reported.

During months of internal discussions between US agencies, the Justice Department opposed the Bout deal, according to people briefed on the matter. However, justice officials eventually agreed that a Bout swap would have the backing of senior State Department and White House officials, including President Joe Biden, sources say.
The Russian government frequently presented Bout as the subject of potential trade for a number of Americans. Bout’s lawyer said he was “confident” that the exchange will take place.

CNN’s Kylie Atwood, Evan Perez, Jennifer Hansler and Chandelis Duster contributed to this report.

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