As world leaders gather in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly, advocates for a businesswoman with U.S. ties trapped in Kuwait for more than a year worked to raise her profile on Wednesday.
Marsha Lazareva, a Russian national and mother of a child with American citizenship, was released on bail in June after spending more than a year in Kuwait's Sulaibaya prison because of what her legal team describes as trumped-up embezzlement charges. But she's still stuck in the county because of a travel ban.
Activists including Cherie Blair, an international lawyer and wife of former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Amber Heard, an actress and UN Human Rights Ambassador, shared Lazareva's story during panel discussions separate from the UNGA Wednesday. Lazareva's U.S.-based advocates also include Pam Bondi, former Florida Attorney General, and Neil Bush, son of the late President George H.W. Bush.
"The international community is gathered in New York this week for the UN General Assembly, which is why we're here bringing worldwide attention to a major human rights violation," Bush told FOX Business. "An innocent woman and her four-year-old son are trapped in Kuwait, unable to return to the U.S. World leaders must continue pressing the Kuwaiti government to live up to its ideals and let this family go."
Members of Congress from both parties have asked the Treasury Department to look into taking action on Kuwaiti officials under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act because of Lazareva's case. Lawmakers including Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania are among the lawmakers who sent letters to Treasury starting in spring of 2019.
Lazareva and a fellow business executive named Saeed Dashti were caught up in the same 2017 accusation. They posted $33 million in joint bail, but remained detained.
Lazareva is former chief executive of private equity group KGL Investment, while Dashti led a separate company called Kuwait & Gulf Link Transportation Company.
Authorities accused Lazareva of being involved in embezzling $496 million from Kuwaiti government investors. The money was actually frozen in a bank in the United Arab Emirates and released in February, reported Forbes.
A Kuwaiti judge overturned Lazareva's conviction, although other charges against her still carry the travel ban.
Lazareva held a U.S. green card prior to being detained in Kuwait.