Last March, prominent US human rights lawyer Emanuel Zeltser drank a cup of coffee in a London cafe. The next thing he knew, he woke up on a private plane headed for a KGB-monitored detention center in Belarus.
Since then, he’s been held at three separate prison facilities in the former Soviet Union country. Zeltser, 55, has been deprived of his diabetes, heart, and arthritis medications, physically tortured, and mentally abused. Today, he is languishing in a KGB penal colony outside of the eastern Belarusian city of Mogilev.
Two layers at Washington, DC lobbying and law firm Patton Boggs LLP now represent Zeltser, and have lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
“I wouldn’t have thought in the 21st century we’d be doing a James Bond movie like this,” Patton Boggs partner Joseph Brand told The BLT. He leads Zeltser’s representation to the United Nations, and calls the case “Kafka-esque.” “This is the Soviet Union at its worst.”
The matter landed on Brand’s desk last August, after Zeltser’s brother got in touch with Patton Boggs name partner Thomas Boggs Jr. Brand specializes in international law and has handled legal work in more than 90 countries. Associate Kristen Johnson is assisting him.
The Russian-born Zeltser, a US citizen and resident of New York, was formally convicted in Belarus in a closed-door trial on charges of economic espionage, using false official documents, and possession of illegal drugs. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Zetlser says the drugs were doctor-prescribed.
Zeltser had never previously visited Belarus in his life.