Memorial: Russian court hears petition to close the recognized rights group

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

The movement sparked public outrage amid months of repression by activists, independent media and opposition supporters.

Several hours inside the hearing, the court decided to adjourn until December 14th.

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

The International Human Rights Group became prominent in its investigations into political repression in the Soviet Union and currently includes more than 50 smaller groups in Russia and abroad.

Memorial was declared a “foreign agent” in 2016 – a brand that involves additional government control and has strong derogatory connotations that could discredit the targeted organization. Prosecutors allege that the group repeatedly violated rules that required it to mark itself as a “foreign agent” and tried to hide the designation.

Memorial and its supporters have maintained that the charges are politically motivated.

When a hearing on the petition to close the Memorial began on Thursday, large crowds gathered in front of the Supreme Court building in a demonstration in support of the organization.

At least three people have reportedly been detained – among them two elderly women with banners that read “Thank you, Memorial for remembering us” and “You can not kill the memory of the people.”

Oleg Orlov, chairman of the Memorial, said Thursday that the group will appeal the ruling if the court decides to shut it down and will continue operations. “

We will appeal to the European Court of Justice and we will continue to work in one way or another. “It may not be within the International Monument that will be liquidated, but we also have the Moscow Monument and many monuments in the regions of Russia – until they are liquidated,” he said.

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

At least two were dissolved to avoid a harder repression.

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