Russia Frees Out Gay Basketball Star Brittney Griner In Prisoner Swap For Arms Dealer

Russia Frees Out Gay Basketball Star Brittney Griner In Prisoner Swap For Arms Dealer
Image: Brittney Griner. Image: Instagram

Out gay American basketball star Brittney Griner was freed by Russia, in exchange for the the US releasing Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the ‘Merchant of Death’.

“Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home,” tweeted US President Joe Biden. The US President shared photos of him speaking to Griner on the phone, while her wife Cherelle was in the Oval office, along with Vice President Kamala Harris. 

Speaking to the press at the White House, Cherelle thanked Biden and the US administration for securing her wife’s release. 

“Today my family is whole — but as you all are aware, there’s so many families who are not whole,” said Cherelle, adding that she and Griner would “remain committed to the work of getting every American home.”

The swap happened in Abu Dhabi, and a video of the prison swap was released by Russian state media Tass.

‘Griner Detained On Trumped Up Charges’

Brittney Griner with wife Cherelle. Image: Instagram

“We are deeply grateful to the Biden Administration’s non-stop effort to negotiate Griner’s safe return to the United States. From the beginning, President Biden and the White House made it clear that they would do everything within their power to return Brittney home to her country and her family – and by the holidays. They have lived up to that promise,” National Black Justice Coalition, a Black LGBTQ+/same-gender loving civil rights group, said in a statement.

The organisation revealed that it had been working with the White House, the U.S. State Department, and other organisations since early March to ensure Brittney’s release. 

“Make no mistake, Griner was detained in Russia on trumped up charges and leveraged as a political prisoner because of her identity as an American. The fact that Griner was both Black and LGBTQ+ made her even more of a target – and the treatment that she faced in the Russian Court system even more horrific. The Biden Administration was right to recognize that bringing Griner home was a top priority – and we thank them for that.”

 Russia Arrested Griner In February 

“Brittney is an icon not only to the Black LGBTQ+/SGL community but to people around the world. Now, she has also become a symbol of hope for the many other people who remain wrongfully detained abroad and the families who remain broken until their loved ones return home,” the organisation added. 

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist was arrested in Moscow on February 17. She was charged with carrying vape cartridges filled with cannabis oil in her bags. 

Griner pleaded guilty to the drug charges in July but added that she did not intentionally break the law. A Russian court sentenced Griner to nine years imprisonment and she was transferred to a penal colony last month.

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