The former live-in girlfriend of Ibragim Todashev is in federal custody in Florida, detained for speaking to members of the news media, says a civil rights organization that has monitored the Todashev case.
The Glades County Sheriff’s Office in Florida confirmed that Tatiana Gruzdeva is being held in the county jail at the order of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
ICE officials in both Florida and Washington, D.C., could not be reached for comment Tuesday due to the federal government shutdown.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Hassan Shilby, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Florida. “They’re trying to teach her that if you speak out about injustice, they will make your life a living hell.”
Gruzdeva, 19, has been told she will be deported back to Moldova for overstaying her visa, according to representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations who have spoken with her. This is the second time she has been threatened with deportation since Todashev was killed.
Todashev, a friend of accused Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was shot and killed by an FBI agent on May 22 after the agent and Massachusetts state troopers interrogated him at his Orlando apartment about the bombing and an unsolved 2011 triple homicide in Waltham.
Gruzdeva was detained earlier this year after accompanying Todashev to a voluntary interview with FBI agents just one week before he was killed.
On May 30, an immigration judge ordered Gruzdeva removed from the country because she had overstayed her visa. However, she was released in August and granted another year’s stay in the United States.
According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Gruzdeva had an 11 a.m. meeting scheduled with immigration officials Tuesday to secure her work authorization.
But three FBI agents appeared at the meeting and took her into custody, according to the council.
“They told her ‘You have been talking to the reporters . . . and you have been saying that Ibragim was a good guy’,” according to notes from a phone conversation between Gruzdeva and a council attorney.
She was then told by immigration officials that her visa was expired and that she would be deported, according to the council.
“They literally told her: Because you have been speaking to reporters, we’re going to lock you up,” said Shilby, the council spokesman.
The arrest comes just two weeks after Gruzdeva gave her first interview since Todashev’s killing to Boston magazine.
She later told the Globe that she was worried that the interview was a mistake and would anger federal authorities.
“I just thinking today about my interview for Boston magazine, and I realize it was my mistake,” Gruzdeva told a Globe reporter on the day that the interview was published. “I don’t want to have any problem with the FBI. I already had a lot. . . . It was the worst time in all my life. I just don’t want to have more problem.”
Law enforcement officials have leaked conflicting reports to reporters about the circumstances of Todashev’s shooting. Some accounts allege that he attacked agents, but reports have differed over whether Todashev was armed. Some accounts say Todashev was about to write a confession implicating himself and Tsarnaev in the Waltham triple homicide.
The FBI has refused to comment on the reports and has ordered that Todashev’s autopsy and all other medical records be sealed and has not issued a report on the shooting.