Hollywood actress has joined prominent supporters of the case, including Neil Bush and Cherie Blair
Hollywood actress Amber Heard, who is also an official United Nations Human Rights Champion, has spoken out in a video interview about why she has joined the campaign to free a Russian businesswoman who was jailed in Kuwait on embezzlement charges.
The 33-year-old American actress appeared at a high-level event in New York on September 25 during UN General Assembly week. Appearing alongside British lawyer Cherie Blair QC, the event was 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 after being found guilty of charges of embezzlement.
“I became involved recently with Marsha Lazareva’s case. I am embarrassed to say I didn’t know much about it until recently but it took me little to no time to quickly and profoundly recognise the deep miscarriage of justice it represents,” Heard, who was appointed by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as a UN Human Rights Champion and supports the Stand Up for Human Rights campaign, said in a video interview after the New York event.
“Marsha’s case is, at its root, a humanitarian issue… Marsha’s case to me is incredibly compelling and saddening… It is surprising to me [Kuwait] would seemly risk international support and a relationship with the United States in order to be involved in comparatively petty business disputes, which is what this appears to be is a political and business dispute that unfairly led to her arbitrary detention,” she added.
Lazareva’s 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.
Cherie Blair also appeared at a second event in New York titled “Human Rights vs Doing Business in Kuwait”. The speakers also included former Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi and activist and son of former President George H.W. Bush, Neil Bush and was moderated by BBC World Affairs editor John Simpson.
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.
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.