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27 Apr, 2020 12:24

‘You can save lives!’ Butina, prisoners’ relatives ask UN to help Russians jailed abroad get furloughs amid Covid-19

Maria Butina, a Russian activist once imprisoned in the US, has petitioned the UN with a desperate plea from relatives of Russians jailed in Europe and the US, who say furlough is the only chance their loved ones have to survive.
‘You can save lives!’ Butina, prisoners’ relatives ask UN to help Russians jailed abroad get furloughs amid Covid-19

“I ask you to show humanity in this difficult time,” Butina said in a video appeal to the chair of the UN Human Rights Council, Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, as she asked her to contact relevant European and American authorities and influence the fate of Russian citizens serving lengthy sentences abroad.

A former gun activist, Butina herself spent more than a year behind bars in the US after she was accused by the FBI of conspiring to infiltrate the National Rifle Association (NRA) on behalf of Russia. The young woman, who had at that time just finished her studies in America, spent months in solitary confinement and eventually yielded to pressure and pleaded guilty on the charge of failing to register as a foreign agent.

Later, she described her time in jail as “the most terrifying experience of [her] life,” while arguing she got caught in a wave of anti-Russian hysteria and was put on trial simply for “being Russian.” She now says her first-hand experience of the US justice system has given her a clear understanding of the dangers other Russians are facing in foreign prisons during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

I know from my own experience what a prison is. As close personal contact encourages the spread of the virus, concerted efforts should be made by all relevant authorities to resort to alternatives to deprivation of liberty.

Butina, who now works for the Russian ombudsperson's office, has also forwarded messages from the relatives of several Russians who are held behind bars abroad and whose lives are in great danger due to Covid-19 outbreak.

“Help us! Give our relatives a chance to survive,” the families of the Russian inmates desperately implored. Butina joined their call by asking Tichy-Fisslberger to petition the relevant authorities to “to change their preventive measures to temporary non-custodian detention.”

Also on rt.com ‘Imprisonment should be last resort...in crisis’ – UN rights chief on prisoners’ fates amid Covid-19 outbreak

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