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June 28, 2016

In Russia, the first criminal case for non-fulfillment of the NGO law is initiated

Defence of the Head of "Women of the Don" organisation decided to appeal against the institution of a criminal investigation. In searching process of the "Women of the Don" Union office, force authorities seized the organisation's financial documents and accounting statements. The decision to open a criminal case against the Union Chairman, Valentina Cherevatenko, will be appealed after the document being received in person, told her lawyer, to Kavkaz Uzel (Caucasian Knot).

Defence of the Head of "Women of the Don" organisation decided to appeal against the institution of a criminal investigation. In searching process of the "Women of the Don" Union office, force authorities seized the organisation's financial documents and accounting statements. The decision to open a criminal case against the Union Chairman, Valentina Cherevatenko, will be appealed after the document being received in person, told her lawyer, to Kavkaz Uzel (Caucasian Knot).

As the Kavkaz Uzel informed, Women of the Don Union's office was searched on June, 24th. Investigators were seizing documents. Mikhail Fedotov, the Head of the Presidential Council on Human Rights, named these searches 'unreasonable'. As Cherevatenko's lawyer earlier said, according to the investigator, the criminal case against the head of Women of the Don Union opened. She's suspected of malicious evasion of duties, stated by the Russian Federation legislation in respect of non-profit organisations performing functions of a foreign agent (Art. 330.1 of the RF Criminal Code). The punishment is up to two years of penal colony.

During the search of the Union office held on June, 24 "documents related to the allegedly foreign funding of the organisation, as well as financial reporting" were seized, as Ildar Shafiev, Valentina Cherevatenko's lawyer told to the Kavkaz Uzel.

"The search was attended by FSB officers, an investigator and a police officer from Novocherkassk, who acted as a computer specialist. No low conduct" said the lawyer.

He noted that the defence has been worn about the preliminary audit but the search was unexpected. "In fact, we confronted with an accomplished fact", he said.

As the Kavkaz Uzel wrote, in May 2016, Cherevatenko was interrogated twice "of the fact of evasion of the duties defined by the law on foreign agents" during the pre-investigation audit. Public organisations representatives interpreted the fact as a continuous attempt at repressing NGOs and creating a precedent for the prosecution based on the Law on foreign agents.

According to him, no order on the institution of criminal proceedings against Cherevatenko was exhibited by the investigator, who informed that the document would be presented on Monday, June, 27th. "We were only shown the judge's ruling about the search" said Shafiev.

He announced his intention to appeal the order on the institution of criminal proceedings.

'Cherevatenko is 'guilty' only of her attempts to challenge their Union being put on the List of non-profit organisations that perform functions of a foreign agent, in court she exercised her constitutional right', says the lawyer.

He also added that the materials of the investigation staff for verification were sent from the FSB, but he did not know if they were from Rostov or Moscow control. "I asked the procedural documents for review, but they have not yet been given" – said Shafiev.

Valentina Cherevatenko herself told to the Kavkaz Uzel, in the Rostov region, she returned on the night of June 25th and during the search was not present.

The website of the Investigative Committee of Russia in the Rostov region information to conduct a search of the organization "Women of the Don", by the data of 01.10 MSK on June 26th, does not exist.

At that, on June, 25th, the Kavkaz Uzel failed to reach the Investigation Department Public Affairs Service for comment. The Kavkaz Uzel has no comments in respect of the search and the audit against the Head of the Women of the Don Union either from the FSB or from law enforcement bodies.

The Kavkaz Uzel also informed that May 14th 2014 Novocherkassk City Court ordered the union "Women of the Don" to register as a foreign agent. In August 2015 the Ministry of Justice considered that the organization performs the functions of a foreign agent, and not included in the corresponding register, in connection with which it was fined. However, on February 29th 2016 the Union "Women of the Don" was officially dropped from the roster. Lawyer Shafiev previously said that Cherevatenko also heads the Foundation for Assistance to Civil Society Development and Human Rights "Women of the Don", the inclusion of which in the register of foreign agents appealed to the appellate court.

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