Defenders Urge Russian Court Not to Shutter Rights Group 

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The Defenders of Memorial, Russia’s foremost rights group, on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to dismiss a case to close it, saying the move would be a dark day for the country.

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The memorial is facing its greatest threat since being installed in 1989 by Soviet dissidents, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov, in court for alleged violations of its designation as a “foreign agent.”

A pillar of Russian civil society, the Memorial has built up a vast collection of Soviet-era crimes and has campaigned tirelessly for human rights in Russia.

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Prosecutors have asked the Supreme Court to disband Memorial International, the group’s central structure, which is required under a controversial law regulating groups for alleged failures to use the “foreign agent” label to receive funds from overseas. Huh.

The move has sparked widespread outrage, with supporters saying the closure of the monument would signal the end of an era in Russia’s post-Soviet democratization.

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It comes in a year that has seen an unprecedented crackdown on opponents of President Vladimir Putin, including jailing top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and banning his outfits.

During the hearing, which lasted several hours before adjourning until December 14, prosecutors accused Memorial of failing to “systematically” use the foreign agent label and of trying to hide his position.

One asked Memorial co-founder Yelena Zemkova at what time she started labeling her business cards.

People gather outside Russia’s Supreme Court to consider a prosecutor’s request to dissolve Memorial International, a human rights group, for allegedly violating a controversial law on “foreign agents” in Moscow on November 25, 2021 There are.

‘Insult to millions’

Memorial’s lawyers and founders denied any serious infringement, saying its contents were properly marked and that only a few documented labels may have disappeared.

He walked out of the hearing amid thunderous applause from supporters.

“We will continue to fight to prove that an organization that has worked for 30 years to help people cannot be shut down because of baseless technology,” Zemkova said.

More than 200 people gathered outside the courtroom to support the group on a cold Moscow day, some wearing black face masks, writing “Memorial cannot be banned.”

Philosophy teacher Maria Krechetova, 48, said closing the monument would be an insult to the millions who suffered under the oppressive Soviet regime.

“Banning memorials would be a final blow to the idea that a person meant something [in Russia], and that their rights have some meaning,” she said.

“Memory plays a huge role in our country. This organization studies, above all, history, repression,” said 18-year-old Arina Vakhrushkina. “This is a page in our history that the authorities are trying to turn and forget. They only want to be proud of our victory.”

Over one lakh people have signed an online petition demanding the withdrawal of the case.

Thursday’s hearing was one of two cases brought against the group this month and is being heard by the Supreme Court as Memorial International is registered as an international body. The decision will not be open to appeal in a Russian court.

The second case, against the Memorial Human Rights Center, began in a Moscow court on Tuesday and will continue until the end of this month.

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