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Golos association challenges court's ruling to name it "foreign agent"

May 08, 2013, 13:01 UTC+3

"Our key argument is that there were no foreign funds on Golos's current accounts," the association's lawyer said

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MOSCOW, May 8 (Itar-Tass) - The Golos association for the protection of voters' rights challenged a magistrate's decision to recognize it "a foreign agent." The appeal was lodged with Moscow's Presnya district court, Golos's lawyer Ramil Akhmetgaliyev told Itar-Tass on Wednesday.

"Our key argument is that there were no foreign funds on Golos's current accounts," Akhmetgaliyev said, "the money on transit account cannot be regarded as belonging to the company until it is placed on company accounts, according to Central Bank regulations. The court decided that since Golos had announced a money transfer error, it actually handled this money. It follows that if somebody brings you money, and you say this money is not yours, that it's a mistake, the court will rule that the money is yours anyway."

According to Akhmetgaliyev, the legal procedure was appealed against, too. A Justice Ministry representative was present in the hearing. She had opened a case of administrative offense. But the court did not name her as a witness, and proceeded to perform prosecutor's functions which is inadmissible, according to the lawyer.

The third argument stated in the complaint is that Golos is held responsible for the activity of an affiliate. "The court blamed one legal entity for the activity of another, although the association's charter clearly states that it bears no responsibility for the activity of its members, and its members are not responsible for the activity of the association," Akhmetgaliyev said.

The association began to draw its version of Election Code before the law on non-governmental organizations - "foreign agents" - came into effect, according to the lawyer.

Lastly, Golos's complaint said the court had not found any connection between foreign funds and the association's activity. "The court does not tell about this connection; it assumes that the presence of these two signs is sufficient to make judgments on foreign agents under the law," the lawyer said.

On April 25, a Moscow magistrate court fined Golos 300,000 roubles. Its director, member of the presidential council for civil society and human rights Lilia Shabanova was fined 100,000 roubles.

"We'll appeal with a court, because Golos does not engage in politics; aside from that it has not received funding from foreign sources since the law on non-profit organizations - "foreign agents" came into effect. As far as I know, the Justice Ministry's document mentions the funds received in 2008, but the law is not retroactive," Golos deputy executive director Grigory Melkonyats told Tass then.

"We refuse to be registered as "foreign agent" on principle, viewing our activity as public, not political," Shibanova said, adding that Golos would appeal to the Constitutional Court.

The association officially denied the Justice Ministry's accusations that it had got funding from abroad and engaged in politics.

The Justice Ministry reminded that since 2008, the association has been implementing the project to increase the transparency of the Russian electoral process on the basis of discussing and promoting a standardized Election Code.

"The objective of the project is to draw the public's attention to the necessity to amend the election legislation by adopting an entirely new legislative act - the Election Code. To promote the Code, the association shapes the public opinion by providing coverage of the draft Election Code. The public actions and events to promote the Election Code aim at influencing the decisions made by government bodies and forming the public opinion," the Justice Ministry said.

Under the law adopted in the summer of 2012, a non-governmental organization performing the functions of "foreign agent" is a Russian NGO which receives funding or property from foreign states, international or foreign organizations, foreign citizens, persons without citizenship or their authorized representatives and/or Russian legal entities that receive funds or other property from the designated persons. Also, such an organization participates in politics in Russia, including in the interests of foreign sources.


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