Brittney Griner has been released by Russia in a one-for-one prisoner swap with international arms dealer Viktor Bout, say reports.
The US basketball player, 32, was arrested in Moscow in February after vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage.
Griner had travelled from New York to Russia during the WNBA off-season to play for Russian women’s basketball team UMMC Ekaterinburg.
The Phoenix Mercury eight-time all-star centre saw her detainment extended three times before her trial started in July.
Griner then pleaded guilty to the charges of smuggling drugs into Russia, but insisted that she had no “intent” to “break the law.”
Prosecutor Nikolai Vlasenko, meanwhile, was adamant that Griner packed the cannabis oil on purpose. Further to her jail sentence, Vlasenko asked the court to fine Griner one million rubles (£13,400).
Griner’s lawyer, Maria Blagovolina, stated that the two time Olympic gold medalist used the cannabis only in Arizona, where it is legal to take medical marijuana.
Blagovolina added that Griner was packing with extra urgency after a long flight and suffered from the consequences of COVID-19.
She also said the analysis of cannabis found in Griner’s bag was flawed and violated legal procedures.
A Russian court handed down a nine-year prison sentence to the WNBA player in August, with a court near Moscow upholding the decision in October.
During her appeal hearing via a video link, Griner insisted that it was an “honest mistake” and it had also been “very, very stressful.”
The two-time Olympic gold medalist issued her plea to overturn the decision to an appeals court of three judges, with the basketball player detained in a centre in a town near Moscow.
It was reported that Griner would serve out her nine-year jail term in a Russian penal colony.
But on Thursday, it was confirmed by a U.S official via CBS News that she has been released by Russia in a prisoner swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout.
BREAKING: Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who was sentenced to prison in Russia, has been freed in a prisoner-swap and is now in US custody, a US official tells @CBSNews.— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) December 8, 2022
The exchange agreement negotiated with Moscow was given final approval by US president Joe Biden within the last week.
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
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