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Russia court orders top human rights group to dissolve over various 'violations'

Russia court orders top human rights group to dissolve over various 'violations'
In recent years, Memorial has been accused of terrorism and extremism as the Russian government under President Vladimir Putin ramped up efforts to control dissent.  Photo by Evgeny Odinokov/Sputnik/EPA-EFE

Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Russia's best-known human rights organization faces extinction after the country's Supreme Court ordered Tuesday that it be shut down.

The International Memorial Society, known as Memorial, was formed with the help of Nobel Peace laureate Andrei Sakharov during the last years of the Soviet Union as it exposed its array of prison camps that were holding political prisoners.

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In recent years, the organization has been accused of terrorism and extremism as the Russian government under President Vladimir Putin ramped up efforts to control dissent.

The Russian Supreme Court said Memorial has repeatedly violated Russia's foreign agent law and should be shut down.

Prosecutors argued that the organization systematically refuses to label itself as a "foreign agent" on its website and other published materials, as required.

Attorneys for Memorial argued there's "no legal basis" for the move and said the agent designation is being used to crack down on independent groups in Russia.

"Shutting down Memorial is worse than a crime," said Vyacheslav Igrunov, a Soviet-era dissident and founding member of the group, according to The Moscow Times. "It's a terrible mistake that will come back to bite the authorities."

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Memorial attorney Maria Eismont said on Tuesday that the group will appeal the decision.

"We consider the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation that satisfied the lawsuit of the Prosecutor-General's office illegitimate and unfounded and will appeal it," Eismont said, according to the state-run TASS news agency.

"This is an unfair decision that will harm [Russia]."

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