Ducey Welcomes News Of Phoenix Mercury’s Brittany Griner Trade For “Merchant of Death”

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on June 27, 2022. - Griner was detained at Moscow airport in February on charges of carrying in her luggage vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which could carry a 10-year prison sentence. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV)

While Governor Doug Ducey and others welcomed the news of Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner’s release on Thursday, critics questioned the Biden administration’s decision to swap her with Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Others were more upset at the decision to leave U.S. Marine Paul Whelan behind bars in Russia for “espionage” when there was originally a push for a swap that would have freed both Americans.

Whelan has been jailed on espionage charges that both his family and the U.S. government have said are baseless.

The Marine was supposed to be part of the deal for the arms dealer, Bout, also known as the “Merchant of Death.” According to FOX News, the possible swap for the “Merchant of Death” was floated back in May.

Bout was in the middle of a 25-year sentence in federal prison after he was convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans who stood in the way of a Colombian terrorist organization.

The Biden administration is allowing the Russians to keep the Marine in the gulag while Griner, who was arrested in February for bringing illegal cannabis vape cartridges into Russia where she plays basketball in the off season, goes free.

In November, when Griner was moved from a detention facility to a penal colony in the Russian region of Mordovia to serve her sentence on drug smuggling and possession charges, her fans demanded the Biden administration act swiftly.

“IK-2, where Brittney Griner was sent, is known as one of the harshest correctional facilities in the Russian Federation,” Tyler Kirk, an assistant professor of history at the University of Alaska Fairbanks told Cronkite News. “It’s the location conditions there, the guards that work there, but also just the horrible conditions and human rights abuses.”

According to NPR, “at the end of November, 52-year-old Whelan was briefly transferred from a penal colony to a prison hospital. He spoke to his family last Friday, after a week of silence that had prompted concern in the White House over his whereabouts and condition.”

“He is probably as well as you could be in a Russian labor camp,” his twin brother David told NPR in April. “They don’t provide nutritional meals, and they don’t really take too much care of the prisoners. There’s a lot of corruption and other abuse. So, I think he does his best to stay out of people’s way.”

The DEA agent who helped put Bout behind bars slammed the Brittney Griner swap.

“We couldn’t even get two people for the world’s most notorious weapons trafficker,” said Tom Pasquarello, former regional director with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

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