By Henry Windsor
AllSides Perspectives Blog
May 20, 2019 – Those working for the release of Marsha Lazareva were hoping for some relief last Sunday. But the hearing, which had been scheduled for the week before but was abandoned, brought only confusion for the family, friends and advocates of the businesswoman imprisoned in Kuwait for over a year.
In effect, Lazareva’s appeal was delayed until 9 June. But for Lazareva it was the latest torment in a protracted ordeal that has become a humanitarian case of global interest. Just a fortnight before, at a hearing hoped to be a turning point in her case, the judge had recused himself, sources say, ‘out of the blue’.
Since Lazareva was found guilty in May 2018 of embezzling 17 million Kuwaiti dinars from the Kuwait Port Authority, the 44-year-old has shared a cramped cell with seven other women in the notorious Sulaibiya prison. The manner in which she was tried and sentenced to 10 years’ hard labour caught the attention of human rights groups and major diplomatic and political figures worldwide. According to Lazareva, Judge Metaeb Al Aredi ‘singled her out’because she was a woman, made ‘many racist comments’ towards her, and told her to ‘vomit in the corner’ when she complained of feeling unwell.
Yet until her incarceration, she was known for being one of the most successful investment managers in the region. Though a Russian citizen, she studied at the world-renowned Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania; later, in her role as vice president of KGL Investment, she created hundreds of jobs in Kuwait over a 13-year period. But with her success came harassment and allegations. Her arrest came following the lucrative sale of a real estate project in the Philippines to Udenna, a Davao City-based holding company. Lazareva’s legal team have said that her success generated enemies who may be behind the charges.