American basketball player Brittany Griner was freed by Russia in a one-for-one prisoner swap for international arms dealer Viktor Bout. cbs news reported on Thursday, citing US officials.
Victor Bout is a notorious arms dealer who was languishing in a US prison for the last 12 years.
US President Joe Biden confirmed in a tweet that Griner was returning home and was safe.
Griner was arrested in Russia earlier this year in February after he was found carrying cannabis oil at the airport of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.
His arrest became an international issue as Russia’s relations with the US deteriorated after the war over Ukraine. He was arrested on 17 February.
Griner plays basketball for UMMC Ekaterinburg, a Russian basketball team based in the city of Yekaterinburg that competes in the Russian Premier League Basketball and FIBA Europe’s Euroleague Women.
During her trial in Russia, Griner admitted to possessing cannabis boxes and testified that it was part of her luggage as she was in a hurry when packing with no criminal intent.
He was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony. She said she used cannabis oil to relieve the pain. People familiar with the development told CBS News that the two sides recently agreed to a prisoner exchange. “She is safe. She is on a plane. She is going home,” tweeted US President Joe Biden.
cbs news Said Joe Biden signed the order to commute Bout’s 25-year federal prison sentence.
Bout was convicted in April 2012 of conspiracy to kill US citizens, US officials, delivery of anti-aircraft weapons, and aiding a terrorist organization.
The Biden administration proposed a prisoner swap over the summer and was aware that Moscow had sought Bout’s release.
Bout was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Agency in Bangkok after he posed as potential buyers from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC.
He was arrested by Thai law enforcement authorities and extradited to the United States after a lengthy process that angered Russia.
During his trial in New York, Bout told the court that the weapons would be used to kill American pilots working with Colombian officials.
Bout has been nicknamed the ‘Merchant of Death’ by UK Foreign Office Minister Peter Hahn, which is also the name of a book on Bout’s exploits by security experts Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun.
Bout began his career in air transport in the early 1990s using military aircraft that had been discarded by Soviet Russia and were scattered at airfields.
Bout has been accused of arming both sides of the Angolan Civil War, assisting former Sierra Leone President Charles Taylor with arms and ammunition – which was later used to commit war crimes – and Also supplied arms to warlords in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. From Congo to Sudan and Libya.
News agencies in West Asia claimed he was a gunrunner for al-Qaeda and the Taliban, an allegation Bout denied and said he only supplied commanders fighting the Taliban.
Bout also claims that he helped France transport goods to Rwanda after the genocide and also claimed to have carried UN peacekeepers.
(With inputs from BBC and Economic Times)
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