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Russia11 June 2008

Prosecutors drop criminal case against Internews Russia’s director

The Moscow public prosecutor’s office decided on 7 June to abandon a criminal prosecution against Manana Aslamazian, the former director of the Russian branch of Internews, an American NGO that trained journalists, her lawyer reported on 9 June.

Aslamazian was charged with “currency smuggling on a large scale” after being found in possession of a sum of euros slightly over the legal limit on arrival at Moscow’s Sheremetievo airport on January 2007. Internews was forced to terminate operations in Russia after the authorities used this as pretext to raid its office and confiscate computers and files in April 2007.

Hopes of a favourable outcome to the case had been raised by a constitutional court ruling on 27 May that part of the article under which she had been charged was unconstitutional.

Aslamazian now lives in France, where she heads Internews Europe.

28 May 2008

Constitutional court rules in favour of Internews Russia’s director

The constitutional court yesterday approved a petition by Manana Aslamazian, the former director of Internews Russia, ruling that article 188.1 of the criminal code, limiting the amount of currency that can be brought into the country, is unconstitutional. Internews Russia was closed in April 2007 after Aslamazian was charged with contraband under the article.

“We welcome the constitutional court’s decision and we now look forward to the withdrawal of all legal proceedings against Aslamazian,” Reporters Without Borders said.

Aslamazian was questionned on arrival at Moscow airport on 21 January 2007 because she was found to be in possession of 9,550 euros in cash, while article 188.1 limits the amount of currency that can be brought into the country to 10,000 dollars or its equivalent in other currencies.

The police subsequently used this as grounds for searching the offices of Internews Russia, an NGO that trained journalists, and seizing its accounts. The NGO was forced to close on 18 April 2007. Aslamazian thereafter left Russia and took up residence in France.

The constitutional court ruled yesterday that someone would have to exceed the permitted amount by at least 250,000 rubles (about 10,000 dollars) for a crime to be committed, and that in Aslamazian’s case, only a fine could be imposed.

Aslamazian told Reporters Without Borders she was pleased with the court’s decision and hoped the proceedings against her would be dropped quickly. Her lawyer, Viktor Parshutkin, said he would request that the case be closed.

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