The last thing we all knew about Brittney Griner was that the Russian court found her guilty. She was convicted of drug smuggling. She accidentally packed her prescription cannabis cartridges in her luggage. The judge sentenced her to 9 years in prison. Due to her guilty verdict, she was set to serve her time in a Russian penal colony. Penal colonies are very strict and harsh for prisoners.
The good news is that her lawyers have filed an appeal. When filing an appeal under Russian law, she does not need to serve her time at the penal colony just yet. The appeal process is the final part of the process that will determine her innocence or guilt. Once the guilty verdict is officially recorded, only then will she be put into the penal colony. The appeal can take up to three months. So, for now, she can sit safely behind bars.
However, their is some good news and not-so-good news. The good news is that the Russian Ministry has responded to the USA and started negotiations for prisoner swaps. The USA wants Brittany Griner and Paul Whelan released and returned.
The not-so-good news is the Russians want Viktor Bout back in Russia.
Viktor Bout- “The Merchant of Death”
Since 2012, Viktor Bout has been serving time in an Illinois prison. The USA found him guilty and sentenced him to 25 years. His nickname is the “Merchant of Death” because he sold arms internationally to terrorist organizations targeted to kill Americans. Micheal Braun, a former operations chief for the DEA, 2010, told 60 minutes, “Viktor Bout, in my eyes, is one of the most dangerous men on the face of the Earth.”
A sting was set in 2008 in a Bangkok Hotel conference room in Thailand. Bout thought he was meeting FARC officials to discuss a military-grade weapons sale. FARC was in search of weapons that could shoot down American helicopters in Colombia. Thai police and DEA agents were listening from planted and bugged microphones in the room and arrested Bout after confirming the deal. Viktor was arrested in Thailand and extradited to the USA for sentencing.
As of now, who knows if the swap will happen before the appeal finishes? Knowing the Russians, an exchange will likely occur to get Viktor back into business. And possibly, they may want more. Russia is positioned to take advantage of the situation rather than lose out. So, I would not hold my breath on a successful appeal regarding the Kremlin.
The Russians have been silent about the prisoner exchange but have finally come to the table to make the deal possible. Recently before the appeal, the Russian Ministry said they wanted quiet, behind-the-scenes negotiations secret from the media and public.
Will the USA wait until after Brittney’s appeal to negotiate? Or go ahead and swap Viktor?
For previous stack.com articles on Brittney Griner, CLICK HERE!