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NGOs Continue to Struggle in Court

Published: December 11, 2013 (Issue # 1790)

  • St. Petersburg courtrooms have been busy prosecuting cases of NGOs accused of being foreign agents.
    Photo: Sergey Chernov / SPT

Three NGOs continued their struggle with prosecutors over accusations of being foreign agents in St. Petersburg this week, months after dozens of the organizations were inspected in March and April. The inspections followed President Vladimir Putins orders to enforce the 2012 law that demanded that NGOs receiving funding from abroad and involved in political activities to register as foreign agents.

Peterburgskaya Egida (St. Petersburg Aegis) had its activities suspended, while the Anti-Discrimination Center Memorial (ADC Memorial) and LGBT rights organization Vykhod (Coming Out) are being sued by prosecutors in new cases aimed at forcing them to register as foreign agents that will be heard later this month.

Due to the continued court cases, the organizations have had to halt some of their activities so as not to provide new grounds for charges to be brought against them.

Peterburgskaya Egida has become the first local NGO suspended as part of the foreign agents campaign. On Nov. 12, the Petrogradsky District court found the NGO guilty of deliberately failing to provide a broad range of documents within the prosecutors inspection and punished it by suspending its activities for 30 days.

Peterburgskaya Egida, which specializes in protecting the labor rights of the socially vulnerable, sent its employees on forced vacation and suspended its provision of free legal assistance to pregnant women, women with children, mothers of handicapped children and women retirees for a month.

According to the NGOs head, Rima Sharifullina, the prosecutors first demanded that the organization present documents about its activities during an inspection in March, but failed to provide any legal grounds for the demand.

They demanded the documents in March, then in April, then in August. Three times they demanded the documents, and three times we asked them to explain the grounds for the inspection. They failed to explain the grounds and simply filed an administrative case against us. The question is still whether we should present any documents without any grounds or accusations against us, or not.

The organization is planning to resume its work when the suspension expires on Thursday, Dec. 12. If the St. Petersburg City Court does not grant Peterburgskaya Egidas appeal to revoke the Petrogradsky District Courts ruling, the organization will wait for further instructions from the prosecutors office, Sharifullina told The St. Petersburg Times on Monday.

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Sunday, Apr. 20

Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianitys holiest day.

Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the deserts most iconic plant.

Monday, Apr. 21

Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDAs Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.

Tuesday, Apr. 22

SPIBAs Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.

The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.