Russian NGOs "foreign agent" trial moved to May 23
MOSCOW, April 15 (RAPSI, Saria Kiut) – The Zamoskvoretsky District Court postponed until May 23 the consideration of the claims challenging the Moscow prosecutor's office's order instructing Memorial Human Rights Center, the GOLOS Association, the Public Verdict Foundation and JURIX organization to register as "foreign agents" in line with the controversial NGO law, RAPSI reports from the courtroom Tuesday.
A federal law was passed in November 2012 requiring all NGOs engaged in political activity, and receiving finance from abroad, to register as a "foreign agents," or face fines of up to 500,000 rubles (app. $14,000). The law was passed amid protests of NGOs declining to register as foreign agents and critics from international human rights groups.
In February 2013 eleven Russian NGOs, Moscow Helsinki Group among them, lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) protesting the law.
Inspections of NGOs began in late March 2013 when the Justice Ministry said its goal was to check that these organizations' activities corresponded with the objectives of their charters and Russian legislation. Up to 2,000 rights groups and NGOs in Russia have been raided by prosecutors and other officials, according to some estimates.
Memorial Human Rights Center was asked to register as a foreign agent last April. The center vowed to appeal the decision. The center's head, Alexander Cherkasov, believes that its initiatives against politically motivated administrative and criminal prosecution were seen as political activity.
By May 2013 not a single Russian NGO financed from abroad and engaged in political activity registered as a "foreign agent". A number of cases against NGOs were filed by authorities with courts. The Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center, Freedom of Information Foundation and Golos, a voters' rights advocacy group, were on the blacklist.