Monday, March 07, 2016

Female American Contractors in Jail: Monique & Larissa

In case you haven't heard about it, there are 2 American women who were sentenced in Kuwait for possession of 1 gram of hashish.  They were sentenced to 25 years each.  Yes, that's right:  25 years each for 1 gram of hash.

In case you don't know it:  for foreigners in Kuwait, finding 1 gram of hash would, under normal sentencing, lead only to their deportation (for Kuwaitis, a maximum of 4 years and sometimes just a warning if it is a first offence).  However, for whatever the reason, they received a very harsh sentence with very little local media attention.

The women's  mothers informed the US Embassy here; the authorities in Kuwait did not alert the embassy.  US Embassy staff went to visit them.  Once.  To see if they were being treated fairly.  End of their part.  I've said it in previous posts and I will say it again:  It is not the mission of the US Embassy to help American citizens in trouble.  Don't count on them to save you (for whatever the reason).

A reputable local Kuwaiti lawyer who has a record of dealing with a number of humanitarian-based cases and issues has taken the case.  He heard about it through staff members and decided to work on it himself.

Now, I've had a lot of comments about this from friends and others saying, "If you go to a foreign country and don't follow their laws, you get what you deserve."  Fine.  I agree with that.  But in this case,was the law  followed  for sentencing?

These women have been in jail for nine months  to date.  That's nine months of their mothers, families, and friends worried about them being in a foreign prison.  What goes through their minds?  Is the prison system the same as in the US (home country)?  Do they get medical care?  Hygiene?  Do they have good food?  Are they safe?  Are they cold?  Are they afraid?  So far, that is nine months of torture for their two mothers.  I sit here and think what that would do to my own mother.  I can't stand the thought.

And I know what my mother would say to me:  You were stupid.

They were stupid.  I think anyone using drugs illegally anywhere knows the risks involved -  and especially in the Middle East (OSN should air, "Midnight Express" again! And again.  And again.)  Kuwait has been featured on National Geographic's "Banged Up Abroad" (case about a young man, a dependent of a western expat employee in Kuwait who went to a party where there were drugs.  They were all rounded up and he got sent to Central Prison). Lack of judgement, stupidity, law-breaking:  Call it what you will.  However, that is NOT the point here.  The point is the fairness of the sentencing and if proper procedures were followed.

Further, the  point is not the women's sexual orientation, as some have said.  Or the fact that their are African-American.  Or, or or..... The point now is the fairness of the sentencing and what evidence it was based on.

Can the ruling be overturned?  I hope so.  I hope they will be able to go home and lead happy lives.

The lawyer is taking on the case for a reduced fee, but they will still both have legal fees.  They are also looking at having to have therapy once they're out.  All cost money.

As a 20 year expat in Kuwait, I hope that we all stick together here.  Long-time expat residents of Kuwait tend to know each other and over the years, I have seen several times where we've come together to help out someone who needed us.  There are other charities out there for sure.  You can do what you want with your money.  But (to preach a little), we are all living in a country far-away-from-home together.  Sometimes you need to call on others for assistance.  This could be any of us.

Monique and Larissa's  families have established a Gofundme site for donations LINK HERE.  Even if people donate $1, you are still helping.   $1 to your credit card is helping. Don't have a credit card?  Help spread the word by sharing on Facebook and social media.

Good luck, Monique and Larissa.  You have people out here in the community who care.


Anonymous said...

i am a Kuwaiti and i don't like the long sentence hope the lawyer manage to reduce to them thanks for the awareness and spreading the word i would also try to spread it around my friends and hope they can achieve the target money fast. And get back to their family and loved ones soon.

Desert Girl said...

That is very kind of you, Anonymous 12:23. Thank you for spreading the word.

Tisme said...

That is a long time for a "gram" of anything.The thing in Kuwait a Gram of hash = a gram of heroin or cocaine. drugs aren't graded. I'm not promoting consumption of a gram of these stuff , but just saying even a year is a lot for a gram of[BLANK]!

Adl A said...

There's a lot of contradictory information out there on the inter-webs. Was it a gram, an ounce or a pound of stuff? Was that stuff hash or K2 or some other tobacco-like substance? Some sources say it was a legal substance, others it was an illegal one. Some still claim that the girls were military contractors, others that they were working in the music industry.
What exactly is true in this story? Is it simply bad reporting? Is it clever propaganda?

Desert Girl said...

Adl A - Welcome to Kuwait!!!! :) Have a nice day.

They had K2 (which is legal in Kuwait) and 1 gram of hash. They were military contractors.