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Kuwaiti Injustice: Marsha Lazareva Receives New 7-Year Sentence Without Opportunity to Present Defense

A coalition of human rights and religious rights organizations calling on President Trump to intervene of Lazareva’s behalf

London – January 21, 2020: Crowell & Moring LLP, counsel to Marsha Lazareva, announced today that a Kuwait Court has sentenced Lazareva to 7 years’ hard labor based on false charges that her company, KGL Investment (KGLI), had billed the Kuwait Port Authority (KPA) for work never performed. Neither Lazareva nor her defense team were told of the hearing, effectively trying her in absentia. The verdict comes less than three months after Lazareva was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in a separate case involving other false charges. In total, she now faces 22 years’ hard labor in Kuwait.

An Orthodox Christian business leader and single mother of a 5-year-old U.S. citizen, Lazareva has been the target of ongoing persecution by the Kuwait government. Lazareva faces continued separation from her young son, Yvan, for whom she is the sole care-giver, and her mother, Lidia, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer. 

Lazareva and her co-defendant Saeed Dashti were convicted despite overwhelming evidence that the company indeed performed and delivered its extensive work product. The prosecution’s sole witness was found to have forged key evidence against them, and a Kuwait civil court reviewed the same evidence and ruled in favor of KGLI, even holding that the KPA still owes the company the last payment for the consulting services rendered.

Earlier this month, a coalition of human rights and religious organizations came together asking for the U.S. Government to intervene in this case.

Five members of the United States Congress have also requested an investigation into Lazareva’s case under the Global Magnitsky Act, which authorizes the United States to impose sanctions against foreign citizens who have been found to have committed human rights violations and engaged in corruption. This includes the freezing of assets in U.S. financial institutions, and prohibition from entering the U.S.

“Unfortunately, today’s judgment against Marsha and Saeed is not unexpected,” said human rights attorney Cherie Blair CBE, QC of Omnia Strategy LLP. “What is striking is how flagrantly the Kuwait judicial system has disregarded the rights of the accused and stopped at nothing to achieve a conviction even in the absence of reliable evidence. Tellingly, the judgment has been delivered hurriedly without any opportunity to present a defense and following a secret hearing between Christmas and New Year about which the defense was not informed and therefore could not attend.

“This is the second time Marsha has been convicted on these charges. She successfully appealed the first time in similar circumstances precisely because the Kuwaiti prosecution and courts had failed spectacularly to respect the rights of the defendants by denying them the opportunity to present their case among other serious failings. Today, we are seeing history repeating itself. The judgment lacks credibility and demonstrates that Kuwait’s courts are more concerned with saving face than upholding basic human rights.”

As a former U.S. federal district court judge and former FBI director, having personally reviewed the evidence and testified in this case, and after watching the government s lead witness convicted of forging the evidence, I am shocked that a Kuwait Appellate Court today would uphold a conviction against Saeed Dashti and Marsha Lazareva and sentence them to 10 and 7 years, respectively, in jail,” said former FBI director Louis Freeh. “I have always respected Kuwait as an honorable and important U.S. ally and for upholding the Rule of Law, but there is something very wrong with the Kuwait court s handling of this case. Such an unfair and unsupported verdict undermines the entire system of justice in Kuwait. Saeed and Marsha are innocent of these very insufficient charges and verdicts, and the case should be dismissed.”

Lazareva was first arrested in relation to these charges in November 2017 and was initially sentenced to 10 years’ hard labor. She appealed her conviction, which was vacated in May 2019, with the Kuwait Court admitting that defense rights had not been respected. The Court ordered a retrial but set an unprecedented USD 60 million bail. Following petitions by Lazareva’s legal team to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the amount was significantly lowered and Lazareva was released on bail in June 2019, although only after complying with extra judicial requirements arbitrarily imposed by Kuwait’s Attorney General.

Contact(s):

Rebecca Carr
Director of PR, Media and Communication
+1 202.508.8835
Email: rcarr@crowell.com