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A Christian Victim of Kuwaiti Corruption Needs U.S. Government Intervention

Marsha Kuwait prison
Horrifying instances of anti-Christian persecution and violence remain all too prevalent around the world. In the last year alone, Open Doors USA reports that over 245 million Christians live in places with high levels of anti-Christian persecution, 4,305 have been killed for their faith, and 3,150 have been detained without trial.

A successful businesswoman and mother of a five-year-old Pennsylvania boy is just one of the many Christians to be wrongfully imprisoned in the Middle East. Marsha Lazareva spent 474 days in a Kuwait prison, accused of crimes she did not commit.

The Kuwaiti judicial process and a groundswell of international pressure so far has failed to win her freedom. It’s now time for the U.S. Government to intervene to help end this terrible violation of human rights.

Marsha is a member of a Christian ministry in Philadelphia, the same city where she earned an MBA from the Wharton School of Business. Marsha split her time between the U.S. and Kuwait, where she was managing a successful investment firm.

In 2017 Marsha was falsely accused of embezzlement, charges believed to have been driven by business rivals. She was convicted based on forged documents and thrown in one of the country’s more notorious prisons where she lived in a small cell with six other women.

Marsha’s court proceedings showed a clear disrespect for her Christian faith. The Kuwaiti courts regularly scheduled her hearings for Sundays.  When an international team assembled to represent Marsha, the court scheduled a major hearing in Kuwait for Easter Sunday, an apparent attempt to discourage her Christian supporters from attending.  Marsha was also denied access to a Bible and encouraged to hide the cross she wore around her neck.

In May her conviction was finally overturned, and she was eventually released on bail. But she currently faces 24-hour surveillance and is prohibited from returning to the U.S. with her son so that he can be baptized and start Kindergarten.

The Trump administration has been refreshingly proactive on fighting to protect persecuted religious communities, especially Christians in the Middle East. President Trump personally intervened in freeing North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson from detention in Turkey. Trump has also helped draw desperate needed attention to the persecution of the Middle East’s largest Christian group, the Copts of Egypt.

Additionally, Vice President Pence spoke out in defense of an Iranian woman sentenced to a year in prison after she converted to Christianity. As for Marsha’s case, it is quickly rising to the level of broad international attention, including from other parts of the U.S. Government.

Five members of Congress – including Madeline Dean from Marsha’s district in Pennsylvania – have sent letters to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to initiate an investigation into Global Magnitsky Act sanctions against those responsible for Marsha’s continued persecution. The Magnitsky Act, which can freeze the funds of human rights abusers anywhere in the world, is a uniquely poignant tool for curbing religious persecution abroad.

We are confident that top-level U.S. pressure can end this saga and allow Marsha and her son to return to Pennsylvania.

Editors Note: The toll-free Capitol Switchboard number (1-866-220-0044), call your Representative TODAY urge him or her to join the bipartisan effort to bring persecuted Christian Marsha Lazareva and her son home from Kuwait. 

 

Peter Burns is the Government Relations and Policy Director at In Defense of Christians.

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