Russia opens first criminal case under ‘foreign agent’ law


Russian authorities have launched their first criminal case against a rights activist for failing to comply with Moscow’s controversial “foreign agent” law, the activist told AFP on Tuesday:

Valentina Cherevatenko, who runs two women’s rights NGOs in the southern Rostov region, could face up to two years in prison if she is charged under legislation which critics say aims to crack down on civil society. 

The 2012 law — introduced after mass protests against President Vladimir Putin’s return for a third term — allows the authorities to brand groups that receive funding from abroad and engage in vaguely-defined political activity as “foreign agents”, a term reminiscent of the Soviet-era repression of dissidents.

The Russian human rights activist is facing criminal charges for allegedly failing to comply with the “foreign agents” law, says Human Rights Watch:

On June 27, 2016, Russian authorities notified Cherevatenko that they were bringing criminal proceedings against her for “malicious evasion” of legal requirements set out in the “foreign agents” law. Investigators alleged that as chair of the Women of the Don Foundation for Civil Society Development, Cherevatenko had violated article 330.1 – “malicious evasion of the duty to file the documents required for inclusion in the register of nonprofit organizations performing the functions of a foreign agent.”

“The case against Valentina Cherevatenko is the first time a criminal proceeding for noncompliance with the ‘foreign agents’ law has been brought against a human rights defender,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Russian authorities should immediately dismiss the case against Cherevatenko and repeal the law that threatens the work of human rights groups in Russia.”

Last week, the Russian State Duma of the sixth convocation held its last plenary session, breaking up ahead of the September 18 parliamentary election, notes analyst Vladimir Kara-Murza. The end of this legislature was fitting: its very last act was to adopt a draconian package introduced by United Russia lawmaker Irina Yarovaya that lowered the age of criminal responsibility for some offenses—including “mass disturbances” (Kremlin speak for street demonstrations) and failure to report a crime—to fourteen, and required cellular and internet providers to help security services with deciphering all messaging applications, he writes for World Affairs:

Nicknamed “the mad printer” for the haste with which it rubberstamped repressive laws written in the Kremlin, the current Duma was, from the very beginning, a product of fraud and lies. The 2011 election was marked by the disqualification of a whole spectrum of opposition parties from the ballot and by the theft of some fourteen million votes in favor of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia. As the current legislature began its session, more than 100,000 people demonstrated on the streets of Moscow demanding a new—this time, free and fair—election, freedom for political prisoners, and a liberalization of the political system.


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