The authorities want to recognize Navalny’s organizations as “extremist.” This is what threatens activists and supporters of the politician – in 11 points
The Moscow prosecutor’s office demanded to recognize the FBK , the Foundation for the Protection of Citizens’ Rights and the headquarters of Alexei Navalny as “extremist organizations.” At Meduza’s request, Team 29’s lawyer Valery Vetoshkina explains how this threatens the workers of these organizations – and everyone who helped them or participated in their actions.
If the court recognizes FBK, the Foundation for the Protection of Citizens’ Rights and Navalny’s headquarters as extremist organizations:
- At the moment when the decision comes into force, those of the leaders who will be formally listed there may be held criminally liable “for organizing the activities of an extremist organization.” The maximum punishment is up to 10 years in prison.
- Up to six years in prison will threaten ordinary employees of the organization, as well as those who commit “deliberate actions related to the continuation or resumption of the activities of this organization (conducting conversations in order to promote the activities of a banned organization, direct participation in ongoing events, etc.) “.
- Anyone who finances these organizations – for example, with the help of donations – or helps them as a volunteer, will face up to eight years in prison.
- All these people risk being included in the list of terrorists and extremists maintained by Rosfinmonitoring. Their accounts are blocked, their legal expenses are limited to 10 thousand rubles a month (excluding payments of fines, taxes, etc.) for themselves and for each family member.
- FBK and Navalny’s headquarters will no longer have the right to hold public events.
- Any demonstration of the symbols of an organization recognized as extremist is prohibited – for this you face a fine or administrative arrest for up to 15 days. Those who are prosecuted under this article will not be able to exercise their passive electoral right during the year, that is, to be elected to government bodies.
- The good news: a court decision on recognizing an organization as extremist cannot be retroactive, so there should be no consequences for those who donated before the organization was declared extremist. The bad news is that the display of the symbolism is much worse. Practice shows that administrative responsibility for the distribution of such materials is brought against them, even if they were banned after their publication. In other words, if you posted the organization’s symbols on social media a few years ago, there is a risk that you will be held accountable.
- It is not clear what will happen to the old materials of the FBK and the headquarters, including, for example, with the investigation of the “Putin’s palace”. From a logical point of view, neither social networks nor the media that posted them on their own should be held accountable, since they did this before the court’s decision entered into legal force. But how the law enforcement will develop is very difficult to predict, because distribution (according to law enforcement officers) is not a one-time publication of material, but its long-term presence in the public domain. That is, the act does not end at the moment of placing the material, but continues until the moment of its removal.
- At the same time, formally, according to the law, the recognition of an organization as extremist does not mean that its materials are automatically recognized as extremist. That is, simply retelling the anti-corruption investigations of the FBK is not prohibited. But this, again, is a matter of law enforcement. It is likely that the court will eventually consider all the materials of the organization to be extremist.
- In any case, the media will be obliged to indicate at any mention that both organizations are recognized as “extremist” in Russia (just as nowadays journalists have to indicate that they are “foreign agents”).
- The court’s decision will concern specific organizations, so in theory Navalny’s team can create new structures. But it is important to remember the experience of the “Open Russia” politician Mikhail Khodorkovsky. An organization with this name, registered in the UK, was recognized in the Russian Federation as “undesirable” back in 2017 , after which the persecution of members of the Open Russia movement of the same name within Russia began. In 2019, it announced its liquidation, and the activists of this organization established another structure with the same name, but could not get registration with the Ministry of Justice. Now the authorities regularly disrupt events held under the auspices of the new structure and persecute its participants (the most recent example is the crackdownCongress of Independent Municipal Deputies in March 2021 in Moscow). At the same time, a connection with an “extremist” organization threatens with more serious consequences than with an “undesirable” one.
- (C)MEDUZA 2021