Jailed in the US, Russian Maria Butina Launches Legal Defense Fundraiser
Maria Butina, a Russian national and gun rights activist who was imprisoned in the US after being accused of acting as a foreign agent, is seeking financial support for her legal costs, which include mounting an appeal of her charges.
Butina, 30, was sentenced last month to 18 months in a US prison on charges of conspiring to act as a foreign agent in the United States.
Butina pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy, believing she was bargaining for a plea deal, but a last-minute shift by the judge in how her sentence was evaluated led to her receiving a much longer sentence than she had been led to believe would be the case. Butina sought a sentence of time served and immediate deportation back to her native Russia, but was instead sentenced to another nine months behind bars in addition to the nine months she'd already spent in US custody.
With good behavior, she could be released as early as November 5, Sputnik reported.
The Russian Foreign Ministry slammed the decision as a "disgrace for the US judicial system," accusing the court of carrying out a "clear political order," Sputnik reported.
After she was arrested in July 2018, Butina spent 67 days in solitary confinement, which far exceeds the 14-day maximum advised by international standards, after which the UN special rapporteur has stated the treatment becomes torturous.
Now, however, Butina is appealing her case and is looking for sympathetic people to help her pay the costs. She took to the Russian social media site VKontakte to find some funds.
In the post accompanying the video, someone wrote on Butina's behalf, "Greetings to you, dear friends! I conveyed to Masha [Maria] all the words of support that you wrote to her in private messages and in comments. Now it is especially important for her: this week, lawyers appealed to the US court in her case. At the moment, Masha is in a distribution center in Oklahoma and is waiting for her turn to be transferred to a federal prison. Audio/video calls and email are now available to her. "
The post also links to a website with Butina's story, photos of the activist and of course, a place for supporters to donate to her fund.
"It feels that I'm again back to [the] modern age. We have internet here," Butina says in the video, recorded at the federal transfer center in Oklahoma City.
"As you know, my attorneys have filed an appeal, and we intend to fight against injustice that's happening with me right now and with all the Russian citizens [in the US]," Butina told her VK viewers. "I am just a manifestation of the current reality."
"Any sum plays a major role," Butina said, citing an old Russian soldiers' motto: "Russians don't surrender!"
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Sunday on Russian television that "we aren't financing a lawyer, but we are doing everything so that she will be afforded all rights as a Russian citizen."
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