SPX4,280.15+72.88 1.73%
DIA337.83+4.12 1.23%
IXIC13,047.19+267.27 2.09%

The US Offers A Deal To Russia Looking For The Release Of WNBA Star Brittney Griner, Convicted Of Cannabis Charges

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the country has offered a deal to Russia aimed at bringing home WNBA star Brittney Griner, reported Yahoo News.

Benzinga · 07/27/2022 17:47

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the country has offered a deal to Russia aimed at bringing home WNBA star Brittney Griner, reported Yahoo News.

Griner was arrested on drug-related charges at a Moscow airport last February and testified on July 27. "I did not know how the cannabis oil ended up in my bag but explained I had a doctor’s recommendation for it and had packed it in haste," Griner testified. "I have pulled aside at the airport after inspectors found the cartridges, but that a language interpreter translated only a fraction of what was said during my questioning and that officials instructed me to sign documents without providing an explanation."

The deal also includes the freedom of Paul Whelan, a corporate security executive from Michigan, who was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison on espionage charges.

Griner's was fifth court hearing hapened last Tuesday and her lawyers argued that she had used medical marijuana to ease pain from sports injuries, like many other professional international athletes do.

Now is the first time the U.S. government has publicly revealed a concrete action to secure her freedom, and although Blinken did not offer details on the proposed deal, offered weeks ago, it is still not clear if it will be enough for Russia to release Griner and Whelan. Blinked expressed that Washington would like a response from Moscow in any case.

"I requested a call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov," Blinken said. "I would also be speaking to Lavrov about the importance of Russia complying with an UN-brokered deal to free multiple tons of Ukrainian grain from storage and warning him about the dangers of possible Russian attempts to annex portions of eastern and southern Ukraine."

Recently, Russian officials have said "no exchange could be discussed until the conclusion of the legal proceedings against Griner. It is not clear how long the trial will last, but a court has authorized Griner's detention until Dec. 20."

If Griner is declared convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison.

What Is The Position Of The U.S. Over the Griner Situation?

The US government has long resisted prisoner swaps for fear that it could encourage more hostage takings and promote a false equivalence between an American wrongfully detained and one deemed justly convicted.

However, a deal last April appeared to open the door to similar resolutions in the future and "the Biden administration has been hounded with political pressure" to bring Griner and others home. However, the conflict of interest between powers would be harming Americans designated as wrongfully detained.

Blinken and Lavrov have repeatedly been avoiding each other, but the two men will be in the same city at the same time next week in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where they will both attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum.

Finally, it is unclear whether the phone call before that meeting, scheduled for August 4-5, would herald an in-person discussion.
Photo: Lorie Shaull via Wikimedia Commons