Lawyers of the Rus Sitting Rus charitable foundation for helping convicts and their families stated that the new fine of the Ministry of Justice, despite the small amount, is an attempt to hinder the foundation’s activities.
In October, the fund received a fine of 3,000 rubles. The Ministry of Justice reported that human rights defenders had to submit three reports, but they submitted only two – as a foundation and as an “foreign agent”. The report of an ordinary non-profit organization, which was requested by the Ministry of Justice, is practically the same as the report of an organization recognized as a “foreign agent”, but it also had to be filed, the lawsuit says. At the same time, the ministry previously had no complaints about the reporting of “Russia sitting”, Olga Podoplelova, head of the organization’s legal department, told The Insider.
According to her, the fine is not so big as to affect the financial stability of the organization. However, with this money it was possible to issue one humanitarian parcel with the most necessary for a prisoner in need.
“And this is already despicable, – says Podoplelova. – But it is equally important that he took away from us dozens of hours of work of lawyers and coordinators, which we could spend on legal assistance to convicts: I mean the preparation of positions and procedural documents, departure to draw up a protocol on an administrative offense, participation in courts, filling in the reports required by the Ministry of Justice ”.
In fact, in the first place, the claims of the Ministry of Justice are aimed at overwhelming the organization with additional work and distracting from the main activity, the lawyer explained.
According to her, the constant pressure on the organization is due to the fact that “Russia Sitting” has long and consistently criticized the Russian criminal policy and the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia.
“We are talking about violations of human rights in places of detention, we are conducting a number of high-profile court cases against the Federal Penitentiary Service and the Ministry of Internal Affairs,” says Podoplelova. “Of course, this cannot but anger state structures, so the pressure on us is in a sense natural.”
According to the lawyer, “Rus Sitting” continues to work in full despite the pressure. “Our key areas are humanitarian assistance to convicts and their families, legal assistance and analytics, psychological assistance to convicts and their families, educational work in the field of human rights (in particular, courses of the School of Public Defender and“ Prison Counselor ”).
The Sitting Rus charitable foundation project for helping convicts and their families has existed since 2008. In May 2018, the organization was recognized as an “foreign agent” at the request of the foundation itself, which received a grant from the European Commission to create a network of legal clinics to help prisoners.
In September 2021, the foundation received a warning from the Ministry of Justice for the image of a two-headed eagle on the organization’s logo. The department found that the two-headed eagle with shackles and a club in its paws, personifying both a prisoner and a warden, insults the state symbol – the coat of arms of Russia. The Ministry of Justice demanded that the logo be abandoned, otherwise “Sitting Russia” would face liquidation “in court”.
Also, the head of the organization, Olga Romanova, reported that the Investigative Committee for the Novgorod Region summoned her for interrogation in the case of fakes about the coronavirus. He was initiated because of the publication about the coronavirus in the colony of the village of Toporok, Novgorod Region. Romanova explained that the publication did not contain information about infectious diseases in the colony, and there was also a disclaimer about the need to verify the information. She is a witness in the case.
In addition, Olga Podoplelova said that there were repeated attempts to hack the messengers of the organization’s representatives.