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Butina’s case is ‘prosecutorial overreach’: She did nothing illegal, but got ‘harsh sentence’ – freed gun activist’s lawyer

Butina’s case is ‘prosecutorial overreach’: She did nothing illegal, but got ‘harsh sentence’ – freed gun activist’s lawyer
Russian gun activist Maria Butina, who has spent over a year behind bars in the US on charges of being an unregistered Russian lobbyist, was essentially innocent but was caught up in anti-Russian witch hunts, her lawyer told RT.

Butina came to the US on a student visa in 2016 and was actively involved in pro-gun circles, namely the National Rifle Association (NRA) with a stated goal of expanding gun laws in Russia, which are quite restrictive. Yet, she was detained by the FBI in July 2018 on suspicion of conspiring to infiltrate the lobby group to promote Russian interests in the US.

The American media immediately snatched the opportunity to label her a spy and also reported that she allegedly traded sex for political favors. Both allegations later proved false. Now, her lawyer, Robert Driscoll, says she was in fact innocent but became a victim of anti-Russian hysteria and had to live in “totally inappropriate” conditions for some nine months.

“The government admitted in the end of the case that nothing she did independently was illegal. It was just a lack of registration that allowed them to prosecute the case,” Driscoll told RT, adding that the whole case is nothing but a “complete prosecutorial overreach.”

Also on rt.com Gun activist Maria Butina leaves prison in Tallahassee, Fl and heads to Russia

“At the end of the day, what is so sad about this case is that initial media reports based on the initial government allegations were just wrong. It was not a spy case; there were no charges of espionage. There were no classified documents involved. There was not even any lobbying done by Maria.”

The lawyer said that she could not even have been prosecuted under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) because she did not do any lobbying. Almost any foreigner in the US could be charged with a similar offense, Driscoll believes. “Anyone has done something in the US that could qualify under this statute.”

Yet, she had to endure inhumane conditions just because US officials were too scared of perceived ‘Russian spies.’ Her treatment right from the moment of her arrest was bordering “absurd,” the lawyer believes.

Also on rt.com New twist in Butina case possible after FBI informant denied she posed threat to US – lawyer to RT

“People need to understand that between July 15 last year when she was arrested and until she arrived at Tallahassee she essentially had not been outside. The jail in Alexandria, where she had been kept pre-trial, denied her even the time to go outside and be in the sun. Other than being driven to court she had not been outside for nine months.”

Her lawyer also revealed that Butina was denied “simple things we all take for granted, like fruits and vegetables in all one’s meals or being able to go outside or be able to go for a run in the morning.” The government has been taking too many unnecessary security precautions in her case, right up to her release on Friday, even though it was already clear by that moment that she was not a spy.

Also on rt.com ‘We weren’t ready for such a harsh, unfair ruling,’ Maria Butina’s dad tells RT

“When she was arrested she was put in custody for the first few months, most of which she spent in solitary confinement. I think that was completely uncalled-for and inappropriate for someone without a criminal record, who was charged with a non-violent offense.”

At the end of the day, all the hardships Maria Butina had to endure in the US, despite being virtually innocent, come down to the fact that Russia, and Russians too, for that matter, has been turned into a bogeyman in the US, Driscoll believes.

“Even keeping her pre-trial was absurd. Any notion she was fleeing the country was absurd. A lot of this was an overreaction because she was Russian.”

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