The grass needs watering at Marsha Lazareva’s house in Bryn Mawr. Normally it’s verdant; not any more. Marsha has been gone for almost two years now. No one knows why.
For 474 days, beginning in early 2018, the Pennsylvania mother, daughter, and international finance executive was remanded to a steamy Kuwait prison cell while doing business in that nation. She was put there, and later under 24-hour Kuwaiti state surveillance, after being brazenly framed for an embezzlement that didn’t occur.
If this sounds like the plot of a dystopian Hollywood thriller, I assure you it’s not. No action hero has been dispatched to rescuethe Pennsylvania mom. One is needed.
Marsha, who was born in Russia, educated at The University of Pennsylvania, and moved to her home in Bryn Mawr in 2006, is a successful local executive who has done business in 32 countries around the world. As managing director of KGL Investment, she was working in Kuwait when she was inexplicably charged with a crime that didn’t even occur. Forged documents had been presented to Kuwaiti officials suggesting that Marsha had stolen $496 million in government funds. Off to prison she went.
After fifteen months in a sweltering cell, it was proved beyond doubt that the documents setting up Marsha had been fakes; the “missing” money was found where it had always been — frozen in a bank account awaiting distribution to investors — and Marsha was released from prison. Marsha’s conviction was moreover nullified by The Kuwait Court of Appeal on the grounds that she was prevented from even presenting a defense during the trial.
End of story — right?
Wrong: Despite Marsha’s exoneration, and criminal charges being filed against the Kuwaiti government official who forged the documents that wrongly put her in a cell, Marsha is still being held against her will in Kuwait where she is caring for her four-year-old son, Yvan, as a single mother. Kuwaiti officials won’t say why. Maybe its wounded judicial pride. Maybe they have it out for strong American women.
Who knows? It’s mystifying people of good will around the world. As if that’s not bad enough, Marsha’s mother will soon undergo serious liver surgery in Philadelphia without her daughter and grandson nearby, compounding a seemingly never-ending nightmare for this Pennsylvania family. The Philadelphia Council of Clergy held a special prayer event for Marsha and Yvan in August, and we will continue to pray for them.
In recent weeks, notable figures including acclaimed British human rights attorney Cherie Blair — wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair — and Neil Bush, the son of President George H.W. Bush (who led the liberation of Kuwait from Iraq in 1991!) and brother of President George W. Bush, have stepped forward to argue for Marsha’s immediate release. So has former FBI Director Louis Freeh after extensively reviewing Marsha’s case. But Marsha and her son inexplicably continue to languish under surveillance in Kuwait.
Three members of Congress, including Pennsylvania Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, are also speaking out, urging the Trump Administration to consider employing the Global Magnitsky Act to punish this unjust Kuwaiti behavior and get Marsha and her boy home to Bryn Mawr. Others need to chime in: Marsha is one of us; she’s being cruelly mistreated by an ostensible U.S. ally, and that’s not acceptable.
Marsha Lazareva’s four year old son was supposed to start kindergarten here on August 27th. His toys should been strewn across a lawn on Great Springs Road that’s instead quietly browning in the hot August sun.
In the name of justice, something needs to be done to bring Marsha Lazareva and her boy home.
Rev. Michel Faulkner, a former NFL player, is Executive Director of the Philadelphia Council of Clergy.