Wife’s joy as basketballer Brittney Griner freed from Russian prison

Brittney Griner and wife Cherelle with US President Joe Biden
Images: Flickr, White House

Brittney Griner’s wife Cherelle, as well as friends and teammates, are celebrating the release of the US WNBA basketballer from a penal colony in Russia.

US President Joe Biden confirmed the lesbian basketballer was “on her way home” after a judge convicted her on drug charges and sentenced her to nine years in prison.

Russia freed WNBA star Brittney Griner on Thursday in a dramatic high-level prisoner exchange, with the US releasing notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

“She is safe. She’s on a plane. She’s on her way home,” Biden said.

“She will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones, and she should have been there all along.”

Biden said the double Olympic gold medalist endured “hell” in “intolerable circumstances”. He said Russia had freed the athlete after “painstaking negotiations”.

At the White House, Griner’s wife Cherelle said she was “overwhelmed with emotions” that Brittney was on her way home.

“Over the last nine months, you all have been so privy to one of the darkest moments of my life,” she said.

“So today I’m just standing here overwhelmed with emotions. But the most important emotion that I have right now is just sincere gratitude for president Biden and his entire administration.”

Cherelle said her “family is whole” but reminded that there are “so many other families that are not whole”. She is referring to other Americans still in Russian detention, including Paul Whelan.

Biden said US did not have a choice as to who came home and will “never give up” trying to secure Whelan’s release from Russia.

Brittney Griner’s teammates cheer her release

Brittney Griner’s teammates, fellow basketballers and other Americans celebrated the news.

Russia freed Griner in a high-level prisoner exchange. The US released Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, US officials confirmed.

Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” by accusers, was serving a 25-year prison sentence in the US on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles and provide material support to a terrorist group.

Authorities arrested Brittney Griner at a Moscow airport in February after she was found with vape cartridges containing small amounts of cannabis oil.

The WNBA star then told the Russian court she made an “honest mistake” and “never meant to break any laws”

Griner appealed her nine-year conviction, but the court rejected her appeal. She was sent to a penal colony last month.

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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