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Businesswoman trapped in Kuwait gets 15 more years in prison

Evie Fordham

businesswoman with U.S. ties trapped in Kuwait for more than a year was sentenced to 15 more years in prison on Monday, her team told FOX Business.

Marsha Lazareva, a Russian national and mother of a child with American citizenship, was released on bail in June after spending more than a year in Kuwait's Sulaibaya prison because of what her legal team describes as trumped-up embezzlement charges.

Now Lazareva is ordered to return to Sulaibaya after being convicted on two counts of money laundering.

Her team plans to appeal the Kuwaiti court's decision and encourage the U.S. and United Nations to put pressure on Kuwait to release Lazareva.

AMBER HEARD, CHERIE BLAIR ADVOCATE FOR BUSINESSWOMAN TRAPPED IN KUWAIT AS UN LEADERS MEET

The Middle East-focused group In Defense of Christians told FOX Business the sentence was a "miscarriage of justice."

"In Defense of Christians is very disappointed by the conviction Monday of Marsha Lazareva, the Orthodox Christian woman being wrongfully held in Kuwait, and the impact on her 5-year-old son who is with her," a spokesperson said. "The U.S. must demand Kuwait corrects this immediately and lets Marsha and to her son return to their home in America and to their faith community at Saint Andrews Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Philadelphia."

Other advocates include Cherie Blair, an international lawyer and wife of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Amber Heard, an actress and United Nations Human Rights Ambassador and Neil Bush, son of the late President George H.W. Bush.

"I am disappointed, but not surprised by the judgment of the Kuwait Court," Blair said in a statement to FOX Business. "It follows a campaign of persecution against Marsha and grave flaws in the judicial process which raise serious questions for Kuwait."

Members of Congress from both parties have asked the Treasury Department to look into taking action on Kuwaiti officials under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act because of Lazareva's case. Lawmakers including Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania are among the lawmakers who sent letters to Treasury starting in spring 2019.

Lazareva and a fellow business executive named Saeed Dashti were caught up in the same 2017 accusation. They posted $33 million in joint bail, but remained detained.

Lazareva is former chief executive of private equity group KGL Investment, while Dashti led a separate company called Kuwait & Gulf Link Transportation Company.

Authorities accused Lazareva of being involved in embezzling $496 million from Kuwaiti government investors. The money was actually frozen in a bank in the United Arab Emirates and released in February, Forbes reported.

A Kuwaiti judge overturned Lazareva's conviction, although other charges against her still carry the travel ban.

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Lazareva held a U.S. green card prior to being detained in Kuwait.

FOX Business' inquiries to the Kuwaiti Embassy were not returned at the time of publication.

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This story has been updated to include a statement from Cherie Blair.

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