Search of Memorial Centre in St Petersburg declared unlawful
On 20 January the Dzherzhynsky District Court in St Petersburg passed its ruling on a civil suit filed by the research and information centre “Memorial” in St. Petersburg
The court ruling allows the application, declares the search on 4 December 2008 to have been illegal, and orders that all documents and items removed in the course of this unlawful search to be returned. The respondents have ten days to appeal against the ruling.
Please see the links at the bottom for information about this extremely disturbing act by the Russian authorities.
The following statement from Memorial at the time explains what happened, and why the potential consequences are so worrying.
“Memorial” Statement over the seizure of its office in St Petersburg
On 4 December, following a decision passed by the City Prosecutor, a search was undertaken of the research and information centre “Memorial” in St. Petersburg, the organization researching the history of the Stalinist Terror . The search was carried out under the pretext of an investigation into the case of what the Prosecutor asserts was an “extremist” publication a year and a half ago in a newspaper called “New Petersburg”.
People in masks, armed with police batons, occupied the premises of the Centre and removed the hard disks from all the computers. These hold the results of twenty years historical research, as well as material of one of the staff of the Centre and art historian Alexander Margolis, well-known also for speaking out in defence of the historical face of the city.
The “Memorial” Society and the research and information “Memorial” Centre in St. Petersburg know absolutely nothing about the newspaper publication which supposedly led to the search nor of the newspaper “New Petersburg”. It would appear that this publication is no more than a pretext for carrying out a search of the Memorial offices.
The disks removed contain databases with biographical information about tens of thousands of victims of Stalins repressions gathered by Memorial over twenty years, unique collections of photographic material and copies of documents on the Soviet terror, the results of searches to find camp graveyards and places of execution on the territory of the former USSR, as well as archives of interviews taped with former prisoners of the GULAG.
The International “Memorial” Society demands the immediate return of material which does not and cannot be connected with any “extremist” publications. “Memorial” warns the St. Petersburg City Prosecutors Office that this material is of enormous scientific value and that the prosecutors office bears full responsibility for its safekeeping.