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Russian Federation: Raid on offices of Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance
Front Line is concerned following reports that the offices of the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance were raided by police officers on 29 August 2007. The Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance is a human rights organisation that was founded in March 2007 after the ordered closure of the Russian Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS) under the new restrictive law on associations in Russia.
On 29 August 2007, the offices of the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance were raided by three police officers who presented an order on behalf of the head of the regional department of the Ministry of the Interior. The order reportedly demanded that computers be seized as a means of investigating alleged 'extremist' content. The raid was reportedly made in accordance with Article 188 of the Russian Criminal Code. In addition, Oksana Chelysheva, journalist and Executive Director of the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance, has reportedly been summoned to testify in relation to the case. Front Line is concerned that the request may be in breach of procedural law as witnesses are only required to testify in criminal trials, whereas an administrative action has been initiated in this case.
Furthermore, on 30 August 2007, the offices of the Novaya Gazeta, the Russian newspaper that covers social and political issues and is known to be critical of the Russian Government's policy, were also raided and six computers were reportedly seized. The staff were not allowed time to copy the stored information, therefore blocking the work of the editorial office and ensuring that the next edition of the newspaper cannot be published. Oksana Chelysheva and Stanislav Dmitrievsky are regular contributors to the Novaya Gazeta. Anna Politkovskaya wrote for the Novaya Gazeta until her assassination on 7 October 2006.
On 17 August 2007, the Nizhny Novgorod District Court considered a motion presented by the Regional Department of the Implementation of Criminal Sentences and ruled to change the terms of the suspended sentence issued against Stanislav Dmitrievsky in April 2006. According to reports, on the basis of the afore-mentioned motion, if Stanislav Dmitrievsky commits two administrative offences in the same year during his four-year probation term, the two-year prison sentence he received will be executed.
Front Line is concerned that the attempts to impose further restrictions on the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Support Tolerance are a direct means of discouraging the organisation and its members, in particular Stanislav Dmitrievsky and Oksana Chelysheva, from carrying out their legitimate peaceful activities in defence of human rights, including the rights of freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of assembly and freedom of association. Concern is also expressed that it may form part of an ongoing campaign against human rights defenders and organisations in Russia, particularly in light of comments made by Governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region, Valery Dhantsev, who stated at a recent meeting of the Anti-Terrorism Committee, that all youth organisations must be investigated for 'signs of extremism' in order to reveal the 'degree of danger of the organisation'. He also mentioned the importance of doing so prior to the forthcoming elections.