Russia freed Brittney Griner on Thursday and edited video released by Russian state media shows the moment the WNBA star is traded for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout at an Abu Dhabi airport.
Bout walks towards the camera after the exchange, accompanied by two men whose faces are blurred. Griner takes off to the left, also accompanied, and is greeted by about half a dozen people.
In another video, Griner is seen getting into and then leaving a van, then boarding a plane. In the video, also edited, Griner shows her passport and then is seen sitting on the plane. Asked about her mood, she replies: “Happy”.
She says she doesn’t know where the plane is heading.
By freeing Bout, the United States freed a former Soviet Army lieutenant colonel who the Justice Department described as one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers. He was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and extradited to the United States in 2010.
Bout was serving a 25-year sentence for conspiring to sell tens of millions of dollars worth of weapons that US officials said were to be used against Americans. Bout had served 11 years of his 25-year prison sentence and was due for release in August 2029. Biden granted an executive pardon to release the arms dealer from a federal prison in Illinois to make the trade of prisoners.
Biden’s authorization to release Bout, the Russian criminal once dubbed “the Merchant of Death,” underscored the heightened urgency his administration faced to bring Griner home, especially after his case was recently resolved. criminal charge for drug trafficking and his subsequent transfer to a penal institution. colony. Griner, who also played professional basketball in Russia, was arrested at an airport there after Russian authorities said she was carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.
Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Baylor University All-American and professional basketball star Phoenix Mercury, whose arrest has made her the most high-profile American imprisoned overseas. Her status as an openly gay black woman, locked up in a country where authorities have been hostile to the LBGTQ community, has injected racial, gender and social dynamics into her legal saga and brought unprecedented attention to the wrongful detainee population. .