Russia fines prominent rights group under 'foreign agent' law

18th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

A prominent Russian human rights organisation was ordered to pay a fine for violating the country's controversial "foreign agent" law despite meeting all government's demands, a group spokesman said Friday.

The NGO Public Verdict, which was created in 2004 and works with victims of police violence, was found guilty of disseminating information without signing it "foreign agent" as required by a law restricting the work of organisations who receive funding from abroad.

A judge ordered the organisation to pay 400,000 rubles (about $5,900/5,200 euros), spokesman Ilya Shatin told AFP, explaining that it was the result of "four documents we published on our website without mentioning we are registered as (a) 'foreign agent'."

But he said Public Verdict had declared itself a "foreign agent" on its website in order to comply with the law, and would appeal the ruling.

"We published a special topic on our website to explain we are a foreign agent," he said. "The law doesn't mention in what way we should say we are a foreign agent."

Under terms of the 2012 law, which was passed shortly after Vladimir Putin began his third term as president, organisations that receive grants from abroad must declare themselves "foreign agents" and sign all publications as such once they are added to the state's foreign agent register.

The law has caused many prominent groups to close, while others are struggling to pay fines.

Rights campaigners argue that the demeaning term misinforms the public, suggesting they serve foreign interests, and so far no organisation has been able to shake off the stigma of the tag -- even after refusing grants from non-Russian entities.

On its website, Public Verdict says it is not planning to pay the fine.

"We work to protect Russian citizens, we work for their best interest," said Shatin.

"This mention has a very bad connotation and it hurts our work."

© 2016 AFP

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