MOSCOW — The Moscow City Court has given prosecutors more time to address defense questions at a pretrial hearing into a move to shut down the Memorial Human Rights Center, one of Russia’s oldest human rights organizations.
According to Memorial, the court opened the preliminary hearing on November 23 but quickly adjourned the proceedings until November 29 after prosecutors were unable to answer all of the questions put to them by a defense team led by lawyer Ilya Novikov.
Moscow prosecutors earlier this month asked the court to order the Memorial Human Rights Center’s closure, while federal prosecutors have asked the Supreme Court to order a shutdown of International Memorial, the umbrella organization for the group.
The move has sparked widespread condemnation at home and abroad.
The Supreme Court’s hearing into the move against International Memorial is scheduled for November 25.
Memorial employees have filed papers requesting that the hearings be open to the public, citing what they called “the importance of the hearings for society.”
The hearing on November 23 was held behind closed doors for what officials said were “COVID-19 precautions.”
Dozens of people were at the court building in support of Memorial, which was launched shortly before the Soviet collapse in part to document Soviet repression. In the decades since, it has produced hallmark indicators of the rights situation and documented historical and ongoing injustices.
The attempt to close the organizations relates to alleged violations of the country’s controversial “foreign agent” legislation.
Memorial is among several news outlets and rights organizations to have been labeled foreign agents in what is seen as a historic crackdown on civil society and critics of the government.
Russia’s so-called “foreign agent” legislation was adopted in 2012 and has been modified repeatedly.
It requires nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign assistance, and that the government deems to be engaged in political activity, to be registered, to identify themselves as “foreign agents,” and to submit to audits.