Golos Association NGO fined over refusal to register as foreign agent
MOSCOW, June 14 (RAPSI) - The Presnensky District Court in Moscow has supported the $9,500 fine imposed on Golos, a voters' rights advocacy group, for its refusal to register as a foreign agent, RAPSI reports from the courtroom on Friday.
On April 25, Golos was fined 300,000 rubles ($9,500) for violating the so-called foreign agent law. CEO Liliya Shibanova was fined 100,000 rubles ($3,200) as well.
A lawyer representing Golos insisted in court that the group was not engaged in any political activity and is not receiving funding from abroad. Therefore, Golos does not qualify as a foreign agent.
Lawyer Ramil Akhmetgaliyev asked the court to close the case insisting that no offense was committed.
"The Justice Ministry has no evidence. We have not accepted 7,000 euros from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, which is confirmed by a letter from Sberbank saying that the money has not been transferred to the organization's account," he said. The bank's transit account is not Golos's account. The organization has never received foreign funding, he added.
Grigory Melkonyants, who is also representing Golos, said individual contributions have almost reached the amount needed to pay the fine.
The Golos Association of Non-Profit Organizations was founded in 2000 to protect the rights of Russian voters and to promote civil society development, the association's website reads.
It was the first NGO to face a penalty based on a new federal law requiring any organization involved in political activities in Russia and financed abroad to file for foreign agent status.
Under a controversial law approved by President Vladimir Putin last year, NGOs funded from abroad and engaged in political activities are required to register as foreign agents, or face fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($16,000) for NGOs and up to 300,000 rubles ($10,000) for NGO directors.