Representative Chris Smith (R-Hamilton) called on the Guatemalan government to release a Russian family on Thursday who fled to South America to escape political persecution by Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin.
Irina and Igor Bitkov, along with their daughter fled to Guatemala in 2009 after two Russian banks, including one mainly owned by the Federation government, attempted to take over a stationery business they owned and afterwards that their daughter was allegedly kidnapped and raped in St Petersburg.
The banks pushed the Guatemalan government to sue the family in 2014, and the Bitkovs were accused of allegedly obtaining fraudulent passports.
âIt’s shocking,â Smith said. âFor fleeing Russia and using false travel documents to survive, Igor was sentenced to 19 years in prison and has already been in jail for three and a half years. Irina and Anastasia were both sentenced to 14 years each and have already served a year and a half in prison – another blatantly unfair and unfair sentence that was upheld by a Guatemalan appeals court last July.
Irina Bitkov, who is currently being held in her home under house arrest, testified before a hearing at the US Congressional Human Rights Commission on Wednesday, urging outside powers to intercede.
“We came to Guatemala hoping to survive, but the Kremlin caught up with us and used its influence to encourage prosecutors, judges and even Guatemalan magistrates to build a case against me and my family,” he said. she declared. “They not only imprisoned and tortured us, but put our 3-year-old son Vladimir in an orphanage.”
The family’s arrest caught the attention of the United Nations International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a multinational effort to stem corruption in the South American country.
Smith and others said Russian banks worked with CICIG to arrest the family.
âThe Bitkovs should have been granted political asylum in Guatemala, not unfairly imprisoned,â Smith said. “Free the Bitkovs now and investigate the corrupt officials of the late CICIG.”