Earlier this year, Patton Boggs partner Joseph Brand compared the plight of client Emanuel Zeltser to a James Bond movie or something written by Kafka. But the twisted tale, it seems, is finally over.
Zeltser, a New York-based lawyer, had been thrown into a Belarusian prison in March 2008 on charges of economic espionage and using false documents-- crimes he and his lawyers say he did not commit. Earlier this week, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenka pardoned Zeltser and released him back to the United States.
Brand and Patton Boggs name partner Thomas Boggs Jr. worked with the State Department and members of Congress to secure Zeltser's freedom. For Patton Boggs, the work included bringing Zeltser's case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee last December and recruiting congressmen to sign a letter urging that he be freed.
Zelter's release is "a shining moment for international diplomacy and simply doing the right thing," said Boggs in a statement. "The Government of Belarus has restored the freedom of a man who was wrongly convicted."
The lawyers at Patton Boggs had also been keeping tabs on Zeltser's deteriorating health. They had said Belarusian authorities had deprived him of diabetes, heart, and other medications critical to his survival. At the time of his release, Zeltser was staying in a prison hospital.
Upon his release, he told the Associated Press, "I am glad about my freedom. ... I have problems with my health, I plan to get better."
Zeltser was born in Siberia, and was general counsel of the American Russian Law Institute before his imprisonment. He had appeared as a commentator on money laundering and organized crime in the U.S. media. Supporters say his detention was politically motivated.