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Lawyers call to delay court’s hearings on blocking Telegram

April 13, 10:01 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The media watchdog noted that it had launched the legal battle as Telegram failed to comply with its obligations as an information dissemination organizer as stipulated by law

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© Alexander Scherbak/TASS

MOSCOW, April 13. /TASS/. Lawyers of Telegram have asked Moscow’s Tagansky court to delay for a reasonable time the hearings on a lawsuit filed by Russia’s telecommunications watchdog, which demands the messenger to be blocked, the company’s lawyer Pavel Chikov said on Friday.

"We ask the court …to delay the hearings for a reasonable time," Chikov said on his Telegram channel, citing the lawyers’ appeal to the court. According to the messenger’s representatives, the court has no objective reasons to consider the lawsuit in such a speedy procedure.

Another lawyer Dmitry Dinze noted that the attorneys were notified that the court had started considering the lawsuit. They also want to familiarize themselves with the position of the Russian Security Service (FSB), which is a third party in the case.

"We believe that the court’s non-compliance with the Civil Procedure Court’s requirements on preparing for a court hearing [non-provision of the lawsuit and depriving of a real possibility to file an objection] strongly violates the right to protection," the lawyers said.

At 10.00 a.m. Moscow Time on Friday, Moscow’s Tagansky District Court will start considering on the merits the watchdog’s demand to block Telegram. The company’s representatives won’t attend the hearing. Founder of the Telegram messenger, Pavel Durov, prohibited his lawyers from participating in court hearings "not to legitimize an outspoken farce by their presence."

On April 6, the Russian media watchdog, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor), filed a lawsuit against the Telegram messenger for failing to act on an official request to furnish the keys in order to decrypt user messages within the prescribed time limit.

The watchdog’s representatives asked the court to call the FSB as a third party in the case, and the court satisfied the motion. Roskomnadzor’s representative demanded that the court block Telegram immediately and write this down in Friday’s decision.

The media watchdog noted that it had launched the legal battle as Telegram Messenger Limited Liability Partnership failed to comply with its obligations as an information dissemination organizer as stipulated by law.

In July 2017, Russia’s FSB demanded that Telegram provide the keys to decrypt user messages relying on the provisions of its own administrative order, which has established the procedure for providing the keys to it. Telegram’s top officials said that this requirement was impossible to meet technically and tried to challenge it in several courts but to no avail. On March 20, 2018, Russia’s Supreme Court rejected the company’s lawsuit.

After this court ruling, the Russian media watchdog said the messaging service had 15 days to provide the required information to the country’s security agencies. The deadline expired on April 4, after which the Federal Service exercised its right to file a lawsuit demanding restricting access to the web resources of Telegram Messenger Limited in Russia.

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