A court in Thailand has acquitted a self-styled Russian sex guru and a Belarusian model who claims to have evidence of Moscow's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on charges of violating labor laws, a lawyer says.
The lawyer -- who represented Aleksandr Kirillov and Anastasia Vashukevich, known by the pseudonym Nastya Rybka, at the court hearing, said on April 17 that the dropped charges were minor compared to newer charges lodged against the defendants. He spoke to reporters on condition that he not be identified by name.
The hearing in the seaside resort of Pattaya was closed to the media, and court officials did not comment on the proceedings.
Police last week added additional charges of soliciting to provide sexual services, which carries a maximum prison term of 10 years, and conspiracy to solicit, with penalties of up to seven years.
Kirillov and Vashukevich have been detained since they and eight other foreigners were arrested in February after police raided their "sex training course" in Pattaya.
"We will not go back to Russia because they opened a new criminal case against us," Vashukevich said from a police van as they arrived at the court on April 17.
Asked if he had a message for the United States, Kirillov responded, "Help us any way [you can], because we don't know what is happening."
Vashukevich and Kirillov are facing a lawsuit in Russia over video footage taken by Vashukevich purporting to show a deputy prime minister, Sergei Prikhodko, being offered lavish treatment on Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska's yacht.
The video went viral after it was made public in February by anticorruption blogger and Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny.
The pair made international headlines again after they asked for U.S. asylum and offered to reveal secrets to journalists shortly after their arrest in Pattaya.
In a video posted on Instagram on February 27, which appeared to have been filmed in a Thai police car, she claims that she can reveal details about Russia's alleged meddling in the U.S. election.
In a letter they said was sent to the U.S. Embassy around the same time, Vashukevich and Kirillov asked for political asylum and protection, saying they had "very important information for USA" and that their lives were in danger.
They have not described the information they claim to have in detail.
Aluminum tycoon Deripaska, who is one of several Russian tycoons hit by U.S. sanctions, was once an associate of U.S. President Donald Trump's ex-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
Manafort has been indicted on money-laundering and tax-related charges as part of the special counsel's investigation into Russian interference in the election.