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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Memorial: Russian court hears petition to shut down renowned rights group

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Russia’s Supreme Court began hearing on Thursday a petition to shut down Memorial, one of the oldest and most prominent human rights groups in the country.

The move sparked public outrage amid a months-long crackdown on activists, independent media and opposition supporters.

Several hours after the hearing, the court decided to suspend the session until December 14.

The Attorney General’s Office earlier this month petitioned the Supreme Court to revoke Memorial’s legal status.

The international human rights group rose to fame for its studies on political repression in the Soviet Union and currently encompasses more than 50 smaller groups in Russia and abroad.

Memorial was declared a “foreign agent” in 2016, a label that carries additional government scrutiny and has strong pejorative overtones that can discredit the target organization. Prosecutors allege that the group repeatedly violated regulations that required it to brand itself as a “foreign agent” and tried to conceal the designation.

Memorial and his supporters have maintained that the allegations are politically motivated.

When the hearing on the memorial’s shutter petition began Thursday, large crowds gathered in front of the Supreme Court building in a show of support for the organization.

At least three people have reportedly been arrested, including two elderly women holding signs reading “Thank you, Memorial, for reminding us” and “People’s memory cannot be killed.”

Oleg Orlov, president of Memorial, said Thursday that the group will appeal the ruling, if the court decides to close it, and will continue to operate. “

We will appeal to the European courts and we will continue to work in one way or another. It may not be within the international Memorial to be liquidated, but we also have the Moscow Memorial and many monuments in the regions of Russia, until they are liquidated, “he said.

In recent months, the Russian government has designated various independent media, journalists and human rights groups as “foreign agents”.

At least two were disbanded to avoid harsh repression.

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