On September 10, 2018, our Embassy’s representative attended another court hearing on Russian citizen, student Maria Butina’s case. Her defense sought to have her freed on bail. The attorney’s arguments were eventually ignored. The court sided with the prosecution and left Maria in prison for duration of the trial due to “a high risk of escape”. Moreover, the judge prohibited the sides to give interviews to the media. The U.S. media already brands Maria as “a Russian spy”, even though she has never been accused of being one. Now her attorney cannot even publicly deny these accusations.
The arguments published by the U.S. prosecution (looks more like legal grounds for Russophobia) deserve a careful analysis in order to fully understand this theatre of absurd surrounding Maria. For instance, the prosecution carefully counted the number of our diplomatic notes sent to the State department on Maria’s case, as well as the number of consular visits to Maria in prison by our Embassy’s officials. The numbers allowed the prosecution to claim that the Russian citizen is “valuable” to her country.
Counting was totally uncalled for. Maria is not the only Russian citizen we visit in prisons. We understand that such visits are irritating, as they help us receive first-hand information on violations of basic human rights - the rights of our citizens in U.S. prisons.
We can say with confidence that if the situation continues, the prosecution will lose count of our official appeals to the U.S. Department of State. “Evaluation” of our official activities undertaken by the U.S. prosecution will be the subject of a separate diplomatic note - it’s a promise.
It might be strange to see RT mentioned by the prosecution as a media channel that “critically covers the trial”. The First Amendment protects journalists in the U.S. from such attacks, but it seems that the Constitution does not apply to Russian journalists. Every step is being taken for the public to receive minimum reliable and objective information on this poorly directed show.
For instance, the prosecution had to admit that one of its key accusations was unfounded - that Maria Butina traded sex for political access and goals, which Maria was originally accused of. It took them two month to admit the obvious - a lousy translation or interpretation of a fragment of Maria’s private correspondence. We can only welcome the prosecution’s decision as a first step made to gradually recall other, similarly groundless accusations.
We’ve learned from the information made available to public that the prosecution’s conclusions are largely based on public speeches and photos of Maria, including those taken with Russian diplomats (from now on we will most definitely warn everyone in the U.S. requesting a picture with us on potential danger that these photos may be used as “photo proof” in American court).
If the U.S. wishes to embrace neo-McCarthyism - that should be a domestic U.S. issue. Russian diplomats, Russian nationals in the U.S. and Americans should not fall victims to their public contacts.
We will visit Maria in prison this week. We will keep advocating her lawful rights and demand from the U.S. authorities to release her.