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St. Petersburg Memorial returned illegally removed disks

07.05.2009

The disks containing invaluable historical information which Memorial Centre had collected over 20 years illegally removed by the Prosecutor’s Office have been returned The St. Petersburg City Court  rejected the appeal by the Prosecutor who had, for the second time appealed against the ruling of the Dzherzhynsky District Court against the unlawfulness of the decision to search the office of the research and information centre “Memorial” on 4 December 2008. This means that the ruling from 20 March has now come into force.

The City Court, however, rejected Memorial’s application to declare the actual decision to carry out the search unlawful.

It was particularly noted that the investigator who authorized December’s rain on Memorial, Kalganov, is no longer dealing with the case.

On 6 May the unlawfully removed material - hard disks containing invaluable historical information about the history of repression and the civic movement the Memorial Centre had been collecting over 20 years. This procedure took almost as long as the original search – from 18.00 to 21.30.

It was known from the middle of March that the investigators did not need the material, but there remained an issue over the procedure for return. This procedure was crucial since the removal was carried out without an exact description of the contents of the hard disks, and the possibility could not be excluded that information had either been lost, or deliberately inserted, staff of Memorial explained.

Ulrika Sundberg, on behalf of the PACE Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammerberg asked the Human Rights Ombudsperson in St Petersburg I. Mikhailov to facilitate the early return of the removed hard disks. However the investigators had problems reconciling themselves with procedure so at variance with the Criminal Procedure Code, and also, as Memorial was demanding, with representatives of the public, an expert opinion and the drawing up of an independent act, sealing and further expert opinion of the technical condition of the removed disks. It took a month and a half to get agreement for this. Memorial received a refusal to have the technical expert opinion organized in the investigator’s office. It was therefore necessary to take everything away from the investigators, having described its external appearance and sealed this with their stamp.

An open expert assessment of the disks will be held on 13 May, followed by a briefing on the result, and details about Memorial’s plans in the nearest future to defend its honour, dignity and professional reputation.

From information at www.hro1.org

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