The New Cold War, like any way, claims the innocent just as easily as the guilty. At The Duran, we have been following the story of Maria Butina, the Russian gun-rights activist who was jailed in the US on charges of being an “unregistered foreign agent” in July of this year.
According to an article in RT published Sunday, September 9th, the American prosecutors were forced to step back and admit that they wrongly accused Ms Butina of offering sex in exchange for a job, apparently part of the core accusation which she is currently sitting in jail for.
US prosecutors … admitted that they wrongly accused Maria Butina, the Russian gun activist jailed in the US on charges of being an unregistered “foreign agent,” of offering sex in exchange for a job.
Days after Butina was arrested in July, Assistant US Attorney Erik M. Kenerson claimed she was offering an individual “sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization.” The claim, which caused a storm in the mainstream media, has been disputed by her defense attorney Robert Driscoll.
However, in a filing on Friday, prosecutors in the US attorney’s office in Washington, including Kenerson, stressed that the July allegation “was based both on a series of text messages between the defendant and another individual.” They admitted that the “government’s understanding of this particular text conversation was mistaken.”
Commenting on the Friday filing, Driscoll said that the US government has “enormous power to destroy lives and reputations through the criminal process…This is an unfortunate example of the misuse of that power. I’m glad the false allegation has been acknowledged, but it’s a hard bell to unring,” he told the Washington Post.
Butina, a Russian national lobbying for looser gun controls in her home country, moved to the US on a student visa in 2016. She graduated from American University in Washington DC with a master’s degree in international relations earlier this year. In July, she was arrested on charges of acting as a foreign agent without registering with the US government.
In August, Butina was unexpectedly transferred to another prison. According to the Russian embassy, which repeatedly described the arrest as politically motivated, Butina’s current conditions border on torture. “We have more and more questions for the US justice system,” the embassy said at the time. “Should allegations pressed against Maria before the actual trial condemn her to practices that are slightly below torture?”
The embassy previously complained that Butina is being subjected to unwarranted strip searches and denied proper medical care, all in an attempt to “break her will.” Driscoll also confirmed to RT that she was experiencing health problems in jail, bus has been deprived proper treatment.
Butina’s charges make her case quite unusual, Driscoll believes, as the law basically makes otherwise legal actions of an individual prosecutable. “There’s no allegation of espionage, there’s no allegation of classified information, there’s no allegation she was paying anyone off, there’s no allegation she was recruiting spies. None of the things you would typically see in an espionage case,” he told RT back in August.
The documentation explaining the US government’s opposition to Ms Butina’s motion for a bond review, which is available for viewing in full here, tells a story of Maria’s alleged danger as a “Russian agent” in much the same manner as a good novel builds its story. While she came to the US to study and learn about American gun rights and the way gun rights are handled in the United States, admittedly for the intent of bolstering a similar push for gun rights in the Russian Federation, the government’s document sidesteps this and instead casts Butina as a “Russian agent” simply because she was living in the US and working with people in the gun lobby.
Given the context of Russophobia, it is remarkable in exactly the way that her defense attorney stated above. There is no allegation of espionage. There is no allegation of moving classified information out of the US, no allegation she was recruiting spies, and no allegation that she was trying to hurt the United States or its interests.
It appears that she was jailed simply because she is a Russian national with an interest in US politics. Nothing more.
TASS reported further in a piece dated September 5 that Ms. Butina’s parents appealed for help to the Russian High Commissioner for Human Rights, Tatiana Moskalkova:
“I turned to [Moskalkova], [asked her] to stand up for [Maria] and help her come back to homeland,” Valery Butin said.
Earlier, Moskalkova was reported to call upon the US Attorney General, the international community, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, General Secretary of the Council of Europe Thorbj·rn Jagland, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for assistance in Maria Butina’s case.
According to Valery Butin, the next court hearing, scheduled for September 10, is expected to consider that she could be placed under house arrest with electronic monitoring of her whereabouts.
“Maria feels good but the hard sleep-wake cycle remains in place,” Butin added.
Maria’s father said earlier that when he was talking to his daughter by phone, she was not complaining about prison conditions, except the daily routine. Due to administrative segregation that had been imposed on her, she has to stay awake at night. In other words, she is allowed to make phone calls at about 1:00 a.m. Washington time (8:00 Moscow time), he added.
The efforts of the US government to create its case against this student are reminiscent of the relocation camps build for Japanese Americans living in the United States during World War II. When asked about why these people, who had done absolutely nothing untoward the United States, were being incarcerated purely on the basis of national origin, the reply from none less than the Westerd Defense Command head, General John L. DeWitte. He created the grounds for mass incarceration by stating, “The fact that nothing has happened so far is more or less … ominous in that I feel that in view of the fact that we have had no sporadic attempts at sabotage that there is a control being exercised and when we have it, it will be on a mass basis.”
While this regrettable comment is certainly understandable in times of real war, there is no war going on between the US and Russia, except for the narrative and economic war the US has waged against the Russian Federation since 2013. The reaction of Russian citizens living in the United States as well as those living in Russia is uniform sadness and frustration as hysteria, and not law, continue to be the order of the day for the United States with regard to Russia and her people.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.