Maria Butina is finally coming back home, after spending over a year behind bars in a bizarre case of anti-Russian hysteria that saw the gun rights activist libeled in the media and locked up as “unregistered foreign agent.”
She is expected to leave a federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida and would be transferred from to a migrant center in Miami on Friday, Russian ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov confirmed, saying The same day Butina would board the plane to Moscow and is set to touch down in the Russian capital on Saturday morning.
Butina was sentenced by a US federal judge for 18 months in April after pleading guilty to conspiring to act as a foreign agent without registration, Antonov said that he hopes Butina’s belated homecoming would “put an end to the most difficult period in her life,” and wished the 30-year-old reunite with her family and loved ones as soon as possible after her ordeal is over.
The diplomat lamented that the US government ignored Russia’s repeated requests to provide any information on Butina’s release before the last minute.
Butina, who came to the US on a student visa in 2016 and became actively involved with pro-gun circles, namely the National Rifle Association (NRA), was nabbed by the FBI in July 2018 on charges of conspiring to infiltrate the lobby group to propel Russia’s interests.
Upon her arrest, a smear campaign in the US media followed, with her being referred to as a “spy” and wrongfully accused of trading sex for political favours.
After nine months in custody, most of which the gun activist had spent in solitary confinement, she admitted to her “crime”, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison, half of which counted as time served.
Russia has been up in arms about Butina’s trial and sentence, with Russian President Vladimir Putin calling it “a travesty of justice.”