To The US Embassy In RSA

Dear Ambassador Brigety,

My name is Adriaan Botha and I am a citizen of the Republic of South Africa. I am writing to you today about a United States citizen incarcerated in a foreign country. I come to know that the habitual procedure would be to inquire to your Department of State but not being an American citizen myself, I cannot appeal to a congressman either. To underline the gravity and international scope of this affair, I settled to send this letter to your Embassy in the Republic of South Africa.

The man whom I am referring to is named Gonzalo Lira and was arrested by the Ukrainian security services in the city of Kharkiv in Ukraine on the 05/05/2023. Mr. Lira is a Youtuber who reports and analyzes the Ukrainian conflict and was doing so until his arrest accomplishing to all extent, the work of a war reporter and the one of a Journalist. My concern about Mr. Gonzalo Lira is two fold. First according to my personal research and what is being said both on social media and written in the press, Mr. Lira would not have received from the US authorities after his incarceration, the proper representation that he is entitled to as a US citizen. If that information is incorrect, I will be grateful if you could find from your precious time a moment to rectify it by referring me to the relevant sources and if I am mistaken, please accept in advance my apologies for an unnecessary intrusion into your working schedule. However if it is true that Mr. Lira has been unfairly treated, I would like to known what would be the reason justifying this position of the US authorities towards him. The situation of Mr. Gonzalo would then strikingly contrast with the one of Washington post Journalist Evan Gershkovich, recently put under arrest in the Russian Federation under spying charges. In this case a whole campaign has been mounted across the media spectrum to obtain the liberation of this journalist. The Department of State declared in April that Gershkovich was wrongfully detained and as reported in the New York Times of the 10th April of this year, the US Department of State stated that the US government sees Mister Gershkovich as the equivalent of a political hostage.

I have been also been told that contrary to the Washington Post reporter, Mr. Lira is not a ‘True Journalist’ which may account for the silence of the Main Stream Media. I will not get into long arguments about that fact (After all it is Irrelevant when it comes to the constitutional rights of Mr. Lira) but will bring to your attention what was written in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette at the height of the controversial Julian Assange case.

Quote: ‘Mr Assange’s critics dispute the notion that charging him is an attack on the First Amendment. They say Mr. Assange is not a Journalist, just the curator of a website that puts secrets on display. One might argue about the craft of Journalism. One might argue about the quality of Journalism. But in terms of the exercise of First Amendment freedoms, revealing what is hidden is journalism. That makes Mr. Assange, apart from his personality or his politics, a journalist.’

In that sense Mr. Lira is as much a Journalist as Mr Gershkovich obviously is. There are also growing fantastic rumors (which will only inflate until some official eases the question as to the fate of the man) that The United States could be considering the possibility of exchanging Mr. Lira. If that is the reason behind the silence as it would jeopardize the exchange if publicly made, I will obviously welcome any attempt to free an innocent man though like anyone, I would be curious to know how such a thing could be possible and the repercussions on the lives of people having dual citizenship like Mr. Lira has. (N.B I am not in possession of information which would make a naturalized citizen different to a native one, but I know that there is however some differences like the fact that ex-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger cannot run for the Presidency not being born in the United States).

I will not take much more of your time but will end my letter by this remark, to the credit of The Ukrainian State, they have for years tolerated Mr. Lira acting as a virulent critic of their government and although Mr. Gonzalo Lira had once before been arrested, he has largely been allowed to pursue exactly the same activities that he is being reproached for now. This attitude of Ukraine was for many a proof of the respect of Ukraine vis a vis Freedom of Speech. By incarcerating Gonzalo Lira, is not Ukraine making the game of those who accuse this state being only a banana republic true? A point that I will certainly not allow myself to do. Neither will I Quote any ‘Alternative’ source of information other than ‘Well established main stream media or organizations like the working paper of 2018 from Carnegie Europe, written by Balazs Jarabik and Natalia Shapovala entitled “How Eastern Ukraine is Adapting and Surviving: The case for Kharkiv “ which explains how the SBU has been heavy handed on the Citizens of Kharkov as well as documented cases of torture, enforced disappearances, ill treatment, and so on. There is little evidence that this attitude has changed today and on the contrary, there are reasons to believe that with the intensification of the conflict, things have worsened.

I am turning to you not having much alternative to receive any kind of answer from other sources and I know that the matter of Ukraine is of special importance to you as recently you were yourselves in the middle of a controversy concerning allegations about unverified arm sales to Russia from RSA. Mr. Lira as any seasoned traveler knows very well that being a citizen of the United States does not in any way make him immune to laws of another sovereign nation and if ever he is guilty of any crime, he still is entitled to the protection of his home country. I also turn to you as a Doctor of Philosophy as I will end my letter by inviting you to ponder what a son of the South, the black lawyer Antony Griffin replied while he was facing incomprehension and even disgust when he decided to defend Michael….. ,The Grand Dragon of the Texas Knights of the Klu Klux Klan. Griffin spoke about this case as …. “The supreme test of a lawyer’s commitment to the bill of rights. Rights of ‘People we hate’ “The Klan says some vile and vicious and nasty and ugly things, but the Klan has the right to say them. If you ask whether they have a right to organize, to assemble, to free speech, those people we hate have such a right, and we can’t just get around that. Because if you take away their rights, you take my rights also.” If Ukraine is as we are told defending our values, Freedom of Speech is for many as for myself, the most cherished of values and for the moment, the Ukrainian State is pitifully proving that she has no respect for these values.

I hope Sir you have pleasure working in our country and apologize for any trouble it may cause but insist that Mr. Lira deserves all our help.

Sincerely Yours,

Adriaan Botha

1619 Kempton Park RSA

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