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St Petersburg prosecutors to press for “foreign agent” status for Memorial

July 17, 2013, 18:57 UTC+3
The law was severely criticised by Russian and international public organisations
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ST. PETERSBURG, July 17 (Itar-Tass) - St. Petersburg’s prosecutors will insist that the regional branch of the public organisation Memorial be recognised as a “foreign agent” despite the city court’s verdict that returned the case to the prosecutor’s office after appeal.

“Mass media reports that the court refused to proclaim Memorial a ‘foreign agent’ are wrong. The case was not examined on its merits in any of the courts,” a representative of the city prosecutor’s office told ITAR-TASS on Wednesday, July 17.

The prosecutor’s office charged Memorial’s anti-discrimination centre and its director with violating the terms of running an NGO that acts as a foreign agent: it has not been included in the register of “foreign agents” and its publications do not state its status as a “foreign agent”.

Earlier the judge found some faults in the case and returned it to the prosecutor’s office. The latter appealed the judge’s decision in higher-tier courts.

Memorial is the second public organisation in St. Petersburg that the prosecutor’s office considers a “foreign agent”. In June, a court awarded this status to the public organisation Vykhod that defends the rights of sex minorities and ordered it to pay a fine of 500,000 roubles.

The NGO Law was adopted last summer and concerns Russian NGOs that receive funding or other property from foreign countries, their governmental agencies, international or foreign organisations, foreign citizens, stateless persons or persons authorised by them or from Russian legal entities that receive funding or other property from abovementioned sources and also engaged, including in the interests of such foreign sources, in political activities in Russia.

If an NGO meets two conditions - gets foreign funding and is engaged in political activities - it will be required to be listed in the register of NGOs that perform the functions of “foreign agents”.

Foreign funding means “all money coming from abroad from governments, states, international or other organisations, individuals as well as Russian organisations with foreign capital with the exception of open joint stock companies with foreign capital.”

The law largely copies the rules of the American law on the registration of foreign agents. They have rather strict registration rules, the Kremlin official said.

Later, Russian legislation was amended to include fines for failure to comply with the NGO Law.

The law was severely criticised by Russian and international public organisations. They also voiced concern about mass inspections of NGOs in Russia started earlier this year.

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