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Butina's sentence 'criminalizes what thousands of international students abroad do'

Butina's sentence 'criminalizes what thousands of international students abroad do'
The politically motivated sentence of Russian gun activist Maria Butina makes anyone going to study abroad – including Americans – look like a criminal, analysts have told RT.

The 18-month prison sentence for Butina "is a horrific miscarriage of justice," said Daniel McAdams, executive director of the Ron Paul Institute. "The only thing she's guilty of is being a Russian in America at a time that America is under a spell of some kind of anti-Russian hysteria.

Also on rt.com US court sentences Russian gun activist Maria Butina to 18 months in jail

"This woman was held in maximum security solitary confinement for 10 months for a crime for which an average person would get a small fine and be sent off," McAdams added.

Butina, who arrived in the US on a student visa in 2016 before becoming active in pro-gun circles, was sentenced on Friday for acting as a foreign agent on behalf of the Kremlin without proper registration.

"What she did is what thousands and thousands of other foreign international students do in the US. They come to the US to get to know the country; to get to know how the political system works; to make friends… The idea that she is some sort of Russian spy is absolutely absurd," McAdams told RT.

Thousands of American students abroad do the same as well, and the ruling against Butina has "criminalized" them all, he added.

"There's danger that there could be a tit-for-tat response from Russia," said independent political commentator Anthony Webber.

Also on rt.com Accused ‘spy’ Maria Butina wouldn’t be in jail if she ‘wasn’t Russian’ - attorney

"I don't think it helps relationships on the world stage. What's needed is for Russia is to be calm and not overreact," he told RT, adding that the history of Russian-American relations shows that Moscow is actually "good at not overreacting to over-the-top provocations."

After being held in solitary confinement for months, Butina pleaded guilty to being a de facto lobbyist, saying that she was unaware that registration was needed.

"Going to jail for that seems really over the top," Webber said. "I don't think it makes the democratic process or the judicial process look very good either."

Her whole case "has been blown out of proportion to fit the anti-Russian agenda, which has been going on in the US since the 2016 presidential election… She's just being made use of as a pawn," the analyst said.

The entire affair has been “political from the beginning," said Patrick Henningsen, editor at 21st Century Wire. "Some of the media stories that have been circulating about her early on have been proven to be false, like that she was exchanging sexual favors for information and somehow trying to corrupt the democratic system through her activities. This is all mainly in the wake of the 2016 election."

The prison sentence handed to the 30-year-old might have been "a face-saving exercise" on the part of the US, Henningsen suggested.

"To have her going free and speaking to the media, telling her story – it's going to be hugely embarrassing" for Washington, he told RT, adding that the ruling means Butina will be released "in the thick of the 2020 US presidential election. So this should be very interesting."

International attorney Douglas McNabb believes that 18 months is an appropriate sentence for Butina, however, considering that "the statutory maximum for the crime that she pleaded guilty to is five years."

With Butina receiving credit for her pretrial custody of nine months and 'good-time' credit cutting the sentence by another two months, she'll actually spend seven additional months in federal custody, McNabb pointed out.

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