MOSCOW, September 9 (RAPSI) – The Moscow City Court has found no grounds for labelling Golos association, an independent election watchdog, a foreign agent, the statement on the court’s website reads.

According to a federal law that came into effect in November 2012, the NGOs engaged in political activity and receiving foreign funding are required to register as “foreign agents” with the Ministry of Justice.

In June 2013, the law was amended to authorize the Justice Ministry to add even unregistered NGOs to a foreign agents list at its own discretion.

The ministry subsequently added five organizations to the register, including Golos, an association of non-profit organizations In Defense of Voters’ Rights. It was active since 2000.

On April 25, 2013, Golos was fined 300,000 rubles ($8,000) for violating the foreign agent law. Its executive director, Liliya Shibanova, was fined 100,000 rubles ($2,700).

In substantiating its ruling, the Moscow City Court cited the Constitutional Court ruling of April 2014, according to which an NGO is not obliged to register as a foreign agent if it has stopped accepting foreign funding. The Moscow City Court concluded that the Norwegian human rights advocates’ unsuccessful attempt to transfer money to Golos “is not sufficient grounds to conclude that the association receives foreign funding, which is one of the requirements for listing an NGO as a foreign agent.”

The court has invalidated the 2013 decision to fine Golos and Shibanova and dismissed the case “for lack of corpus delicti.”

“The Justice Ministry must remove Golos from the foreign agents list and repay it 400,000 rubles ($10,700). The plaintiff can also request the reversal of other decisions that were taken against it illegitimately, as it has since been established,” Grigory Melkonyants, a Golos leader, has written on Facebook.