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Russia's Butina ‘political prisoner’ held in US on trumped-up charges, says diplomat

According to the diplomat, at present Butina’s attorneys are preparing for the next hearing

MOSCOW, October 4. /TASS/.Russian national Maria Butina, arrested in the United States on fabricated charges, is a "political prisoner" and Moscow will continue pursuing her immediate release, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Thursday.

"We are keeping a close watch on the situation with Butina," Zakharova stated. "I recall that she was arrested in the US on trumped-up charges. She has been unjustifiably deprived of her freedom for two and a half months and is de facto a political prisoner."

According to the diplomat, Butina’s attorneys are now getting ready for the next hearing. "She has vowed to prove her innocence," Zakharova stressed. "For our part, we will further fight to ensure Butina’s legal rights and demand that the US authorities end their arbitrary treatment and immediately release her from jail."

The diplomat noted that the consular staff members from Russia’s Embassy in Washington DC visit Butina on a regular basis in a jail in Alexandria, Virginia, where she is being held.

"Thanks to the efforts of Russian diplomats, Butina’s incarceration conditions significantly improved," Zakharova said. In late September, after a lengthy isolation, Butina was moved to a general custody regime and was allowed to leave her cell, communicate with other inmates and make phone calls. A meeting with an Orthodox priest was arranged for her with the assistance of the Embassy.

Butina case

The 29-year-old Maria Butina was arrested in Washington DC on July 15, on the eve of the Helsinki summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump. The Russian gun rights activist was charged with conspiracy to conduct activities in the interests of a foreign state. The investigators claim she engaged in these activities without registering as a foreign agent at the US Department of Justice.

The FBI said Butina had entered the US in August 2016 on a student visa and enrolled in American University. She received the master’s degree in international relations in May 2018, according to her lawyer.

Butina is a member of the board of the Russian public associations ‘The Right to Guns’. In this capacity, she attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington in February 2017 where President Donald Trump took part.

On July 21, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov underlined in his telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that US actions against Russian citizen Maria Butina were inadmissible.