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Amnesty International: Moscow Authorities 'Stonewalling' Over Office Closure

  • VOA News

The office door of rights group Amnesty International is sealed off in Moscow, Russia, Nov. 2, 2016.

The office door of rights group Amnesty International is sealed off in Moscow, Russia, Nov. 2, 2016.

Amnesty International said Thursday attempts to resolve the issue of the closure of its Moscow office have been "stonewalled" by city authorities.

Staff of the international rights group office in the Russian capital arrived at work Wednesday morning to find the office's doors sealed and the locks changed.

The Moscow mayor's office said later Wednesday the group had failed to pay rent on time.

Amnesty called that claim "demonstrably false," adding in a statement on Thursday that it has documents proving the rent has been paid up to and including October of this year.

"If the authorities remain unwilling to solve this issue, it will soon start to look ominously like a deliberate move to obstruct our work to defend human rights in Russia," said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia Director. "It is becoming increasingly difficult not to see this incident through the prism of the wider crackdown on Russian civil society."

Later Thursday, the Moscow authorities denied Amnesty's claim that it had paid all of its rent, Russia's TASS state news agency reported.

Wednesday's closure of Amnesty International's Moscow office came a day after the group called on Russian authorities to investigate allegations made by Ildar Dadin, a jailed anti-Kremlin protester, that he had been beaten and tortured in prison. The group demanded that Dadin be immediately and unconditionally released.

Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service said in a statement Wednesday a "commission of independent doctors" had physically examined Dadin at the northwestern Russian prison where he is incarcerated and found no evidence he had been beaten or "signs of previous injuries," TASS reported.

On Thursday, however, the French News Agency (AFP) quoted Dadin's wife Anastasia Zotova as saying that activists who visited Dadin in the prison the previous day reported they had seen him suffer something like an "epileptic fit."

Zotova said her husband's seizure occurred after he was beaten by prison staff and that he had never before suffered from fits. She said medics and experts had told her his seizure could have been caused by being "kicked in the head."

Federal Penitentiary Service Deputy Director Valery Maksimenko said Thursday Dadin fell off a chair while being examined by doctors the previous day and was being tested for epilepsy.

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