Police and tax auditors raided the offices of two human rights organizations in Kazan, the capital city of the Russian Republic of Tatarstan, on 20 July 2009. The raids targeted the interregional human rights association AGORA and the Kazan Human Rights Center, disrupting their work.
The authorities confiscated the computer of AGORA’s chief accountant and more than 2,000 documents. Authorities are now looking for evidence of tax evasion and financing terrorism in the documents. The raid lasted over 10 hours and ended at 2:30 am on 21 July 2009. Pavel Chikov, chairman of AGORA, tells more about the work of his organisation:
AGORA’s method is to focus on a professional legal support of those the organisation has taken to defend. The association has not engaged in vociferous protests, but in looking at the evidence; not in complaining about the work of the investigators, but to force its own tactic on the investigation; not in drafting reports about the situation of human rights, but in highlighting typical violations and demanding systemic changes; not in making statements to the press, but in professional cooperation with journalists. The association has several employees who have experience of work within Russia’s law enforcement agencies and court system. At present, AGORA has offices in Kazan, Cheboksary (Chuvashia), Izhevsk (Udmurtia), Chita, Abakan (Khakassia), and St Petersburg.
AGORA has defended people accused of “extremism”, including Vitali Tanakov, head priest of the Mari traditional religion in the capital of the Republic of Mari El, Yoshkar-Ola; Nina Maksimova, chairperson of the Mari national organisation, Mari Ushem; Rafis Kashapov, one of the leaders of the Tatar national movement; Dmitry Solovyev, a blogger from Kemerovo; as well as Andrei Kutuzov and Rustam Fakhretdinov, anarchists from Tyumen. Also, AGORA has come to the defence of members of the international Islamic organisation, Tablighi Dzhamaat, which was banned as extremist. Moreover, AGORA has brought charges against neo-nazis accused of killing antifascist activists in various locations in Russia.
AGORA successfully argued the case of the electoral rights organisation, GOLOS, in the Supreme Court, which ruled that non-governmental organisations cannot be closed down for minor infractions. AGORA proved the illegality of the refusal to register the interregional organisation, Anti-Fascist Union, and the invalidity of tax claims against the ecological organisation, Planet of Hopes. AGORA defends the interests of the family of slain journalist Anastasia Baburova and the former editor-in-chief of the Samara edition of Novaya Gazeta, Sergei Kurt-Adzhiev. AGORA successfully defended the cases of Lyudmila Kotova, editor-in-chief of VolgaInform, Vladimir Pribylovsky, editor-in-chief of Antikompromat.ru, Khazbulat Shamsutdinov, editor-in-chief of Vechernyaya Kazan, and Mikhail Afanasiev, editor-in-chief of Novy Fokus.