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Prosecutors Fail to Brand NGO Foreign Agent

Published: July 10, 2013 (Issue # 1768)


Two St. Petersburg courts have refused to classify the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center (ADC Memorial) as a foreign agent under recent legislation, the NGOs director Olga Abramenko said at a news conference on Wednesday, July 3.

On May 27, Judge Olga Glushanok dismissed charges against the NGO for not registering as a foreign agent and for not labeling a brochure containing ADC Memorials report for the UN Committee Against Torture as published by a foreign agent. The judge ruled that the charges were unsupported by the evidence at hand and returned the case to the prosecution for further investigation.

Later, prosecutors appealed to the Leninsky District Court, but their complaint was rejected on June 27.

On April 30, ADC Memorial became the citys first NGO to be prosecuted under the new foreign agents law, in force since November 21, 2012.

According to the law, NGOs that receive any funding from foreign sources and conduct political activities are required to register as foreign agents. Virtually all of Russias NGOs have refused to register, arguing that it would stigmatize them as acting on behalf of foreign governments. Human rights organizations across the world have criticized the law as an attempt by the Kremlin to stifle criticism under the guise of countering foreign influence.

In March and April, massive inspections of hundreds of NGOs across Russia were held. About 40 NGOs were inspected in St. Petersburg. According to Abramenko, a five-member team a prosecutor, two police officers as well as representatives of the Federal Service for Consumer Rights Protection (Rospotrebnadzor) and the Emergency Services Ministry arrived at ADC Memorials offices for inspection.

Although originally claiming the inspection was conducted under counter-extremism legislation, the team examined documentation, software licenses, fire safety measures and even whether or not the NGOs employees had recently had chest x-rays as part of healthcare requirements, Abramenko said. They then ordered that more than 3,000 pages of documents be copied and submitted to prosecutors.

Eventually, prosecutors used the ADC Memorial report on human rights submitted for review by the U.N. Committee Against Torture as evidence, branding it political activities. According to prosecutors, the report, called Roma, Migrants, Activists: Victims of Police Abuse, contained calls for confrontation with the authorities. The organization responded that the publication only recommended the respect of human rights and the rule of Russian and international law.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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