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On Friday, the Russian movement "For Human Rights" said about the seizure of its office in central Moscow. The movement's executive director 72-year-old Lev Ponomaryov, Yabloko party leader Sergei Mitrokhin and some other human rights activists were beaten up by police during the eviction operation. On Sunday, police detained five people who participated in a meeting of protest near the office. Moscow authorities say there is a decision that a city social protection organization will occupy the office, and so, they did not renew the lease.
On Friday evening, policemen and guards attempted to evict the human rights activists who allegedly had not paid the rent, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Moscow city property department officials showed an early-February-dated document, saying the lease period for the municipal premises expired and the authorities intended to terminate it. In reply to questions of bewildered reporters and Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin, who arrived at the site, Ponomaryov explained that he had not received such a document, and the rent was paid. "Such affairs must have been settled through a court. But the authorities decided to act with force and kick us out of the office in which we were for 13 years already," he said.
When Lukin left, the human rights activists were immediately pulled by force from the office. They complained that the law-enforcers acted cruelly, beat them in kidneys. Mitrokhin had a cut injury on a leg. All the protesters needed medical care.
Signatures were collected outside the office on Sunday for an appeal to the prosecutor-general. An "Occupy" camp was set up near the entrance with activists on duty round the clock. The idea resulted in first detentions.
Civic Platform leader Mikhail Prokhorov has expressed indignation over the incident. On his Facebook, he offered to pay the office rent for the human rights organization for the next year. “Whatever the legal background is in the story of the eviction of Lev Ponomaryov and his colleagues, it makes me indignant,” Prokhorov wrote.
Ponomaryov told the Moskovsky Komsomolets that police appeared at two o'clock on Friday afternoon. "I refused to leave, and from the very beginning they used force. Lawyers were not allowed to enter. It was possible to get into the office only through a window. Then, police stood under the windows and did not allow getting in. The people could not go to a toilet. Those who went there were seized and resisted attempts to push them outdoors. They had to sit and be patient. Those were Gestapo methods. But full violence and beating happened at 02:00-03:00 on the night," the activist said.
The Novye Izvestia asked Ponomaryov whether the office rent was really paid for the period including June. The human rights activist answered that it was true. "I have payment documents." A new lease agreement was planned to be concluded with them. When they submitted papers to renew the lease, they were said that there was no information that they had paid. They tried to find it out and checked the bank documents - the money was transferred. Then, the Moscow property management committee told them that the payment information was blocked and the authorities were not obliged to give them the information.
The daily cited the activist as saying he would appeal to a court and insist on opening a criminal case. Besides, he has appealed to the court of arbitration.