Developing story: While the news wires and mainstream media have not yet ran this news update, I wanted to be the first to share with you exclusive information I just received moments ago from author and social scientist Cheryl Benard that an Austrian court has lifted a freeze on bank deposits held by her and Zalmay Khalilzad, who was the highest-ranked Muslim American to serve under President George W. Bush when he was U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations.
Before the September 8, 2014 news story about Dr. Khalilzad being the subject of a federal inquiry made international headlines and traveled the world, a regional high court in Vienna had granted an appeal of an earlier order to freeze the accounts containing $1.4 million. However, Dr. Benard’s lawyers did not learn about last week’s decision until yesterday. Meanwhile, news media reports continued to surface that Dr. Khalilzad was under an ongoing probe for suspected money laundering and tax evasion related to business activities in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates.
On September 9, 2014, I privately reached out to Dr. Benard and wrote her this message:
I just wanted to send you a friendly message of love and support. Every person is innocent until proven guilty. I believe in your innocence. I know you have always served US national interests and have always been eager to better Afghanistan and Iraq. I know we haven't met in person but something inside me just tells me you have been set up and being used as the sacrificial lamb. Political revenge or who knows what.
Cheryl, I know how difficult time this is for you. When I came out of the closet as the first native from Afghanistan and was rejected by friends and family and received numerous death threats, there were only a few people who were there for me in my darkest and loneliest days.
My friend Otilie English has always spoken very highly of you. And something inside me just tells me you are a person of integrity.
Please let me know if I can be of assistance. I know you will get through this and hope everything gets resolved to your favor.
To protect Dr. Benard's privacy, I’m not in a position to divulge her response to me but I trust she will write an article or perhaps a book detailing her experience. I hope this case is fully resolved and that both Dr. Benard and Dr. Khalilzad, can put this matter behind them and focus their energy on living their life to its fullest.
Below is a statement to the Press on Behalf Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Cheryl Benard
Earlier today, the regional high court in Vienna issued its decision granting the appeal filed by Cheryl Benard, the wife of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, which challenged a prior seizure of certain of her Austrian bank accounts. The appellate decision by the regional high court is a complete vindication of the position of Ms. Benard and Ambassador Khalilzad. The seizure of the accounts is lifted and the funds in the accounts are no longer frozen. The decision was actually made on September 3, 2014. However, the decision was not shared with lawyers for Ms. Benard until today, several days after press reports appeared regarding a leak of confidential court documents, which included materials related to Ms. Benard’s appeal.
After learning of the decision, Dr. Benard and Ambassador Khalilzad made the following statement:
"We are pleased to have been informed that the regional high court in Vienna has ordered all of our assets to be unfrozen and returned to us immediately. The court further ruled that there was no authority for Viennese prosecutors to seek the bank information regarding our accounts in the first place, much less be given the ability to unlawfully restrain us from accessing our accounts.
Indeed, this decision was reached on September 3, well before the leak that caused the press activity of the past few days, but it was only conveyed to our attorney now. We are pleased with this outcome and are glad to have our trust in the rule of law confirmed.”
The names and numbers of Dr. Benard’s lawyers have been intentionally omitted by me.