27 November 2013
By Aleksandr Kalikh, Chair of Youth Memorial, Perm
At issue was the demand by the regional prosecutor that Youth Memorial should be included in a register of non-profit organizations acting as foreign agents. In response, Youth Memorial challenged the prosecutors’ notice in the courts, demanding that the notice be declared unlawful.
Sergei Trutnev, a lawyer from the Perm Human Rights Centre acting for Youth Memorial told the court: ‘We have the following impression: the prosecutors received instructions to find “candidates” from among the more authoritative NGOs to make a public display of them.’ The instructions were carried out, “candidates” were selected. And then they began to seek out any kind of allegedly compromising material that they could use to frighten people who know nothing about the matter and , and turn them against a new enemy – the “foreign agents”. ‘
The prosecutors tried to argue that Youth Memorial received financial support from the “wrong” foreign foundations, foundations that allegedly are engaged in hostile activity on Russian territory. However, during the court hearings the prosecution could not find a single fact confirming such activity. Youth Memorial, they alleged, is engaged in political activity, publishing educational articles on the history of political repression in the region of the Kama river, articles which also examined the contemporary situation in Russia. In influencing public opinion, the organization, again allegedly, sought to influence government policy.
The regional prosecutors considered that these and other fabrications were enough to demand that Youth Memorial register as an “organization acting as a foreign agent.”
This six-month-long struggle against these groundless accusations, accompanied by attempts to blacken the reputation of our organization, ended in victory for Youth Memorial. Decisive in this struggle was the assistance we received from the lawyers of Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow).
In general it should also be noted that the attempt by Perm prosecutors to ‘clear the field’ of Perm’s leading civil society organizations met with failure. All four Perm NGOs (Perm Civic Chamber, Perm Human Rights Centre, Grani Centre and Youth Memorial) that were issued notices by the regional prosecutor’s office to register as ‘foreign agents’ have fully and finally defended their rights in the courts.
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