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Court fines Svetlana Gannushkina 2,000 roubles. reports

18 June 2013 

Vera Vasilieva 

On 18 June 2013 the magistrate’s court No. 367 in Moscow’s Tver district ruled that the chair of the Civic Assistance Commitee Svetlana Gannushkina was guilty of violating Article 17.7 of the Administrative Code ("failure to comply with the legitimate demands of the prosecutor") and fined 2,000 roubles. 

The court hearing was scheduled for 16:00, but by 15:15 people had already begun gathering outside the court building. There were human rights defenders from Memorial, Russia Behind Bars and other NGOs, and journalists. There was not enough room for everyone in the small room, and members of the public themselves carried in a couple of additional benches from the corridor, which aroused the displeasure of the court bailiff. However, this dissatisfaction was more a matter of form: in the end no one was prevented from observing the trial. 

The prosecutor who initiated the case again failed to appear in court. At the previous hearing on 4 June, the hearing was postponed on account of the prosecutor’s absence. The defence requested that the prosecutor be summoned to the court to provide evidence of the legality of the inspection of Civic Assistance Committee. 

One of the two lawyers defending Svetlana Gannushkina, Kirill Koroteev, again petitioned for the prosecutor to be called to the court, but the court refused "because it is not necessary for the person who prepared the protocol registering the administrative offence to be present." A number of other motions of the defence were also rejected. 

The chair of the court outlined the charges against Svetlana Gannushkina, and then gave the floor to the defendant and her attorneys. 

Svetlana Gannushkina pleaded not guilty. 

"I have not received a response to my question as to what specifically was being inspected, and what relation there was between what the prosecutor requested and the facts being checked," she said. 

The human rights defender also pointed out that the officials from the Moscow prosecutor's office set before Civic Assistance demands that it was impossible to meet. 

At the end of March the prosecutor's office began an inspection of Civic Assistance Committee on the basis of the new Russian law on NGOs. On 2 April the NGO handed over copies of 30 documents that had been requested to an official from the tax authorities, at the behest of the prosecutor’s office. 

On 4 April after 15:00, at a time when Svetlana Gannushkina was not in the office, the same inspector phoned and then showed up with a new demand that significantly exceeded the previous one. The number of documents required was now increased, and no time at all was given for their preparation. By 5 April, the Civic Assistance Committee was told to present the newly requested documents in full to the prosecutor with certified copies. 

For this reason, Civic Assistance Committee decided to suspend handing over the requested documents until the grounds and legality of the inspection of the NGO had been clarified. 

As Svetlana Gannushkina told the court, prosecutors demanded even those documents that the human rights organization did not have since they were at the Ministry of Justice. 

However, the human rights activist emphasized that her organization was always open to constructive cooperation with prosecutors and is a member of the Public Advisory Council of the Moscow prosecutor’s office. 

The lawyer Kirill Koroteev added to what had been said by Svetlana Gannushkina that the prosecutors had demanded his client provide information that she could not give without breaking the law on personal data.” 

In addition, he drew the court's attention to the fact that the protocol on the alleged administrative violation contained a factual error. The place of work of Svetlana Gannushkina was given as the Civic Assistance Committee. However, Civic Assistance Committee is the location of the voluntary work that she does, and her place of work is Memorial. 

In the actions of Svetlana Gannushkina there was no intent and no fact of a crime, her legal counsel stated in summary. 

After all the views had been stated, and the written materials of the case had been studied, the judge retired for approximately one hour to consider the verdict. When she returned to the court room, she announced only the operative part of her judgment, and for that reason the arguments on which she based her decision are as yet not known. 

After the court hearing Svetlana Gannushkina said she intends to appeal against the decision in Moscow’s Tver district court.