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Thu 19 Sep 2019 09:13 AM

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Actress Amber Heard joins fight to free Russian woman jailed in Kuwait

American actress will join Cherie Blair and Neil Bush at a discussion in New York next week

Actress Amber Heard joins fight to free Russian woman jailed in Kuwait

Hollywood actress Amber Heard, who is also an official United Nations Human Rights Champion, has become the latest high profile name to join the campaign to free a Russian businesswoman who was jailed in Kuwait on embezzlement charges.

The 33 year-old American actress will appear at a high-level panel discussion in New York on September 25 during UN General Assembly week. Appearing alongside British lawyer Cherie Blair QC, the event will be titled 'Protecting Women From Inequality and Injustice'.

Cherie Blair is part of an international legal team representing Russian woman Marsha Lazareva, an employee of KGL Investment Company in Kuwait, who was arrested in November 2017 and sentenced to ten years hard labour imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of 22 million Kuwait dinar ($72 million) in May last year after being found guilty of charges of embezzlement.

The conviction was successfully appealed on May 5, 2019 when it was discovered the documents used as evidence against her were proven to be forgeries and the funds of nearly half a billion dollars she was accused of embezzling were actually frozen in a Dubai bank. 

Following a hearing in Kuwait on June 9, Lazereva was freed on bail and released from prison but her legal battle continues, with her latest court hearing taking place last Sunday.

A Russian citizen who graduated from the prestigious Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2003, Lazareva previously held a valid US green card before her imprisonment in Kuwait and is the mother of a four year-old son, an American citizen born in Philadelphia.

Blair will also appear at a second event in New York next week Titled “Human Rights vs Doing Business in Kuwait”. The speakers will be moderated by BBC World Affairs editor John Simpson and will also include former Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi and activist and son of former President George H.W. Bush, Neil Bush.

“I will highlight the Marsha Lazareva case, but international law is flouted the world over and the international community must do more to tackle this outrage,” Cherie Blair was quoted as saying in a report by the Daily Mirror.

In a video interview with Arabian Business in June, Blair said the jailing of Lazareva had “shaken” her faith in Kuwait’s judicial system but she hopes that the case is a one-off “aberration” and foreign investors can “remain confident” about doing business there.

“I do think that the reputation of Kuwait is being damaged by this and particularly at a time when Kuwait, like everybody else, is wanting to encourage direct investment. This story is not helping the idea that Kuwait is a safe place to do business,” Blair, who is also the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said in the video.

Aquaman star Heard was appointed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as a UN Human Rights Champion and works as part of the Stand Up for Human Rights campaign. As part of her activist work she has also visited Jordan to visit Syrian refugees with the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS).

In addition to Neil Bush, Cherie Blair and Amber Heard, other prominent supporters of Lazareva include Tatyana Yumasheva, the daughter of the late former Russian President Boris Yeltsin; Louie Freeh, the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Ed Royce, the former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; James Nicholson, the former Ambassador to the Vatican and former Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Lord Alex Carlile, a member of the Queen's Counsel in London and Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

Read all about the Marsha Lazareva case here.