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Incarcerated basketball player Brittney Griner’s guilty plea to drug charges may play role in speeding her departure from Russiabut it’s a risky gamble that could have significant downsides, a hostage expert told Fox News Digital.
“I can’t say it’s right or wrong, because either way, the Russian system … it’s not our system,” said Hugh Duggan, who served as special envoy for hostages during the Trump administration. “But it’s a gamble based on what her lawyers are advising her to do.
“In our view, it looks like, well, it puts her in a position that they can do [prisoner] exchange”.
Griner, who pleaded guilty to drug charges July 7 has been held in Russia since February after Russian authorities said they found hashish oil cartridges in her luggage.
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The guilty plea does not end the case, but some believe it could speed up the process along with Griner’s release from prison. She could qualify for a prisoner exchange between Moscow and Washington, DC
Duggan explained that according to the books, Griner would have to return to the United States and serve her sentence in an American prison, which he believed would not have happened in any formal way, if that had happened.
“With a prisoner exchange like this, you have to finish your sentences and respect the decision of each respective country,” he said, adding that “it is doubtful that the Russians will make their guy go to jail for another, so many years.
“That would mean that you would have established a prison here for at least the next ten years if it was a bona fide prisoner exchange in accordance with our consular procedures and agreements with Russia on these matters,” Dugan added. “We didn’t see that happening with [Trevor] Reed. Nor have I seen it happen with such arrangements when I have been acting.’
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Rebecca Koffler, president of Doctrine & Strategy Consulting and former Intelligence officer of the ATSexplained that most details of any deals would remain out of the public domain and through diplomatic channels.
“They don’t want anything public,” she said. “The one thing about the Russian system that is very, very different from the American system is that there is little to no independent judicial process, especially in high-profile cases like this.”
“The Russians say that she is not detained illegally. She had drugs,” Kofler continued. “It’s basically a clash of two legal systems.”
She added that it depends on “what Putin wants.”
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Duggan worried that by pleading guilty — even if Griner did intend to qualify for a prisoner exchange and expedite her departure from Moscow — Griner strengthened Russia’s negotiating position.
Part of the problem arises because Griner has “confessed” to her criminal activities, which Duggan believes makes it difficult to classify her as a hostage. He noted that it was difficult for officials to argue for her “hostage” status, since she has been in pre-trial proceedings for several months, which means that her status could rather be classified as “unlawfully detained”.
“It’s a roll of the dice as to what we’re dealing with,” he said, noting that if Griner tries to prove her innocence, Russian courts could schedule her next hearing in months or even years. “Russia will do what it wants in any case.
And Griner is not the only American detained in Russia. Trevor Reed recently returned homebut Paul Whelan, the head of automation supplier BorgWarner, remains in prison after being kicked out of the prisoner exchange that brought Reid home.
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The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, which tracks Americans illegally detained in foreign countries, has compiled a list of more than 60 US citizens detained in countries including Belarus, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Venezuela. , among others, according to Reuters.