Biden hears talk of ‘more serious’ prisoner swap with Putin
Joe Biden is not forgetting Brittney Griner. After the midterm elections, the American president intends to raise the issue of a prisoner exchange with Vladimir Putin “more seriously” to free the American basketball player. It is held in Russia.
According to Griner’s lawyers, the 32-year-old athlete, who was sentenced to 9 years in prison, will be transferred to an unknown penal colony.
Brittney Griner was convicted of “drug trafficking” in August. His supporters denounce the unjustified and political decision in the midst of the conflict in Ukraine for a possible prisoner exchange between Moscow and Washington.
“I hope that now that the elections are over, Mr. Putin will be able to talk to us and be willing to talk more seriously about the prisoner exchange,” the US president said at a press conference after the midterm elections. United States. “My intention is to bring him home,” Joe Biden said, adding that he was “optimistic” that there was a “willingness to negotiate more clearly with us.”
Britney Griner’s lawyers said in a statement that she left the detention center near Moscow on November 4 and is currently “going to a penal colony”.
A few days, a few weeks of transfer
In Russia, such a transfer to often isolated sites can take several days, sometimes even weeks. In general, prisoners travel on special trains across the vast territory of Russia with stops at various prisons, without the possibility of communication.
Often, relatives of prisoners are not informed about the place of detention until they reach their final accommodation. It’s also the work of Griner’s attorneys, who “don’t know exactly where he is.”
The spokeswoman of the White House, Karine Jean-Pierre, responded earlier that Joe Biden is demanding that Moscow “improve the treatment and conditions that he may be subjected to” in this colony.
He was sentenced to nine years in prison
Brittney Griner was arrested in Moscow airport in February for possessing a vaporizer containing a cannabis-based liquid.
He admitted the facts, but claimed he had inadvertently imported the substance while it was legally used as a pain reliever in the United States. The Russian court did not show him any concessions and sentenced the athlete to 9 years in prison for “drug trafficking” in August.
During the trial, his team from Yekaterinburg, Russia pleaded with the player. Unsuccessful. On October 25, his appeal was rejected, and the way was opened for his transfer to a penal institution.
A prisoner exchange?
This woman’s case took on a geopolitical dimension in the context of the crisis between Moscow and Washington over the attack in Ukraine. Other American citizens are imprisoned in Russia, and the United States wants to secure their release.
Washington has repeatedly said that it has made a “significant offer” to Russia for the release of the sportswoman and another American prisoner, ex-soldier Paul Whelan.
Whelan’s family regularly denounces the conditions in which he is being held in a colony in Russia’s Mordovia region. He claims he was deliberately deprived of sleep and unable to get the medical care he needed. Cases of torture and mass rape are regularly reported in Russian penal colonies, inherited from the Soviet concentration camp system.
Griner’s health is potentially at risk
“If the Kremlin decides not to torture [Griner] and if the VIP gives him conditions, he will have the right to keep a separate diet, do sports, and stay in shape,” said Vladimir Ossetchkine, head of Gulagu.net, an NGO specializing in the protection of prisoners in Russia. “But if the prison authorities are ordered to pressurize him, his life and health will be in danger,” he said.
According to Russian diplomatic sources, a possible prisoner exchange may involve Britney Griner and Victor Bout, a Russian arms dealer detained in the United States and serving a 25-year sentence in the United States. The Russians and Americans have agreed to several prisoner exchanges in the past.