Russian Judge To Rule On NGO Lawsuit That Could Shut Down Memorial

A Russian judge Friday heard petition by politicians and human rights activists seeking the cancellation of a court order to close a group known for its investigations into possible violations in Russian law enforcement.

The Legal Expert Committee, a state investigative agency known for its close cooperation with Putin-allied authorities, argued that the Moscow-based Memorial lawyers, doctors and researchers were defaming, attacking or lying to investigators by investigating Kremlin leaders, officials, businessmen and others.

“The work of the Attorney General’s Office, specifically the work of the Investigative Committee, results in this court order and this ruling is a throwback of political sentiment which is regrettable for human rights,” Boris Oreshkin, an official of the Union of Russian Journalists, told the Sada monitoring service.

Oreshkin said such behavior should be punished under the Russian penal code “as an act of treason.”

The court did not immediately announce its decision.

Parliamentarian Oleg Morozov, an outspoken Putin critic, said that he also wants the case to be dropped. He told the RIA Novosti news agency he considers court documents signed by top Kremlin-approved investigators.

“The judges who signed this document should be investigated for corruption,” Morozov said.

In its 2012 report, an investigator for the Investigative Committee detailed allegations of “organized pseudo-civil society” that was misusing the law to criminalize small violations, state media reported.

Russian authorities routinely threaten to close leading human rights groups.

In May, a Moscow court ordered the Russian legal aid organization Memorial to be closed, alleging it had too many appeals pending and saying the institution “refused to cooperate.” The group was founded in 1977 and has to this day vowed to fight it’s closure.

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