‘Like a bad Hollywood flick with allegations as surreal as Alice in Wonderland’ – Russia’s Butina on US arrest
Just hours after her release from a US prison, Russian gun activist Maria Butina revealed how deeply her arrest shook her and explained that she opted to plead guilty simply because she did not believe she would get a fair trial.
Butina recounted her "life-changing" experience as she flew home from Miami, Florida to Moscow, Russia on Saturday. Speaking to RT and Sputnik news agency, she said it was hard to believe she was finally on her way back. However, it is probably less shocking than the US accusation that she was a "foreign agent" secretly working for the Russian government.
"When I was arrested for the first time and put into a big black van, it all felt like a movie – a bad, ridiculous Hollywood blockbuster," she said.
Butina’s case garnered quite a lot of attention since it happened during the height of the Russiagate hysteria following accusations that Moscow was meddling in internal US matters. The US media was quickly flooded with surreal stories, including claims that Butina was using sex to infiltrate US political circles.
It sounded like something from Alice in Wonderland, or Through the Looking-Glass.
Butina denied being a spy and insisted she just was a foreign student making friends. There was zero proof to the contrary and the charges were "bogus," she said. On top of that, the gun activist explained, the prosecution did not even bother to properly translate her tweets."The translation was completely horrendous. The phrase 'tech bordering on fantasy' was translated into English as 'secret equipment.'"You cannot translate it that way!"
The FBI questioned Butina for 52 hours, but according to her, the whole interrogation was “absolutely pointless.” From the start, she said that she had no ties with the Russian government and the agents “quickly ran out of questions.”Also on rt.com US not bad but justice system broken: Butina talks about ‘terrifying’ solitary confinement, vows to fight for inmates’ rights
The activist said the FBI kept asking the same things about her activities over and over again because “they just couldn’t believe that people can do good things for no special reason, simply because they believe in friendship between the countries and strive for people’s right for self-protection.” The lengthy interrogation was just for show, to make it look like the investigators “were doing something serious,” while they had nothing.
Before her sentencing in April, Butina spent eight months in custody, much of the time in a "super freezing" cell in solitary confinement. There was hardly any heating inside, she said, and most cells had no view from the windows other than a brick wall.
I've spent my 30th birthday staring at the bricks.
The Russian ultimately decided to plead guilty to failing to register as a foreign agent and was sentenced to 18 months in prison, with some of the term counted as time served. She did it because she did not believe that she would get a fair trial – especially in a jury trial – after being slandered and demonized by the media.
"I would have been tried by the same people who watch the news… and get 15 years," she said. Butina claimed that she would have "fought till the end" if she was given a chance to stand trial "before an international independent court with an objective view on my case."Also on rt.com ‘It was very hard to bear’: Maria Butina recalls how US media smeared her on TV & prison guards gathered to watch it
“There is no justice in the US,” Butina said. She recalled that when the judge was announcing her sentence, she first called her “a wonderful woman” and expressed confidence that she wouldn’t commit a crime ever again, but then said that she fully agreed with the prosecutors. “This is absurd.”
“They just needed a scapegoat to justify the huge money spent on prosecuting a graduate student. It’s a disgrace.”
Butina said the prison term she received “was a shock. I was sure that they’d let me go home that very day because there were absolutely no grounds for me to be sentenced.”
"This is why I prefer not to speak from solitary confinement where no one hears my voice. My fight starts here," Butina said, explaining that "the most important thing for me now is to tell the truth about what happened to me. People have a right to know that."Also on rt.com ‘Very lengthy & painful experience’: Butina in her first comments after release (VIDEO)
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