Russian court to rule on closure of famous rights group
Moscow Russia’s Supreme Court will hear a petition on Thursday to shut down one of the country’s oldest and most prominent rights group, a move that has outraged public opinion and is part of a months-long campaign against activists, independent media and opposition supporters.
The prosecutor’s office earlier this month petitioned the Supreme Court to revoke the legal status of the Memorial – an international human rights group that stood out for its studies on political repression in the Soviet Union and currently includes more than 50 smaller groups in Russia and abroad. .
Memorial was declared a “foreign agent” in 2016 – a designation that carries additional government scrutiny and carries strong connotations of disdain that can tarnish the reputation of the target organization. Prosecutors allege that the group repeatedly violated regulations requiring it to designate itself as a “foreign agent” and attempted to conceal the designation.
Memorial and his supporters emphasized that the accusations were politically motivated.
The pressure on the group sparked a public outcry, with several prominent figures speaking out in support of its support this month. As the hearing on the petition to close the Memorial began on Thursday, large crowds gathered in front of the Supreme Court building to show support for the organization.
At least three people were reportedly arrested – including two older women holding signs that read “Thank you, Memorial, for remembering us” and “You can’t kill people’s memory”.
It remains unclear whether the Memorial organization plans to continue operating without being a legal entity, if a court rules to revoke its status, as many other rights groups in Russia have done in the wake of previous crackdowns.
In recent months, the Russian government has designated a number of independent media, journalists and human rights groups as “foreign agents.” At least two were resolved to avoid a tougher crackdown.
Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.