Judge orders alleged Russian agent jailed pending trial

WASHINGTON, July 18 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Wednesday ordered accused Russian agent Maria Butina jailed until her trial after U.S. prosecutors argued she has ties to Russian intelligence and poses a serious flight risk.

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The Justice Department said Butina has been in contact with Russian intelligence operatives, kept contact information for several Russian agents and had a handwritten note in her Washington apartment asking how to respond to an offer of employment with a Russian intelligence agency.

During a preliminary hearing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, prosecutors showed a photo of Butina meeting an alleged Russian intelligence agent at a Washington restaurant.

The 29-year-old former American University graduate student wore an orange prison jumpsuit and showed no emotion as her lawyer entered a not-guilty plea.

She has been accused of working with a high-powered Russian official and two unidentified U.S. citizens, trying to infiltrate a pro-gun rights organization in the United States and influence the United States' foreign policy toward Russia.

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Mariia Butina, leader of a pro-gun organization, speaks on October 8, 2013 during a press conference in Moscow. - A 29-year-old Russian woman has been arrested for conspiring to influence US politics by cultivating ties with political groups including the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun rights lobby. Mariia Butina, whose name is sometimes spelled Maria, was arrested in Washington on July 15, 2018 and appeared in court on July 16, the Justice Department said. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Accused Russian agent Maria Butina is shown sitting at a table with a suspected Russian Intel Operative in a restaurant, according to court documents, in a FBI surveillance photo provided July 18, 2018. FBI/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. PICTURE OBSCURED AT SOURCE.
A note by accused Russian agent Maria Butina, according to court documents, is shown in this photo provided July 18, 2018. U.S. Government Exhibit/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. PICTURE REDACTED AT SOURCE.
US Marshals check their truck as they wait outside the US District Courthouse in Washington, DC on July 18, 2018. - Maria Butina was scheduled to appear at the court on July 18, 2018, to face charges that she sought to 'infiltrate' the US government. According to a federal indictment, Butina's very public activities masked the work of a 'covert Russian agent' with a plan to spearhead Moscow's influence in President Trump's Republican Party. (Photo by Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
A US Marshals van leaves the garage of the Federal Courthouse in Washington, DC on July 18, 2018. - Maria Butina was scheduled to appear at the court on July 18, 2018, to face charges that she sought to 'infiltrate' the US government. According to a federal indictment, Butina's very public activities masked the work of a 'covert Russian agent' with a plan to spearhead Moscow's influence in President Trump's Republican Party. (Photo by Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Maria Butina, Russian gun rights activist linked to NRA, charged as Kremlin agent. https://t.co/xMMeLvI2UT https://t.co/u3PnALiqx3
Mariia Butina, leader of a pro-gun organization, speaks on October 8, 2013 during a press conference in Moscow. - A 29-year-old Russian woman has been arrested for conspiring to influence US politics by cultivating ties with political groups including the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun rights lobby. Mariia Butina, whose name is sometimes spelled Maria, was arrested in Washington on July 15, 2018 and appeared in court on July 16, the Justice Department said. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Per sources: accused Russian agent Maria Butina was arrested on Sunday because law enforcement feared she was about… https://t.co/0ApzTGcE0z
Russian national Maria Butina has been indicted on two charges, including acting as a foreign agent… https://t.co/Opgf80Mem8
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The gun rights group was not identified. However, her social media accounts show she attended many National Rifle Association events and met with many top officials of the lobbying group.

Her attorney, Robert Driscoll, has said she is not a Russian agent and poses no flight risk, after she was arrested on Sunday without warning.

In a statement to reporters after the hearing, Driscoll said Butina wanted to send love to her parents and tell them she was OK. "While we respect the court, we strongly disagree that there were no conditions of release short of incarceration to detain an innocent student before trial,” he said.

Russia's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said there were no grounds for her arrest, and that its embassy in Washington has requested a meeting with Butina. (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Tim Ahmann and Jonathan Oatis)

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