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19 Jul, 2021 09:55

Russian legal rights pressure group Team 29 disbands citing fear of prosecution after authorities block website over foreign links

Russian legal rights pressure group Team 29 disbands citing fear of prosecution after authorities block website over foreign links

A prominent group of Russian rights activists and lawyers has announced it will cease to exist after officials blocked access to its website over claims it had published content from a Czech group banned in the country.

Team 29 issued a statement on the Telegram channel of its founder, Ivan Pavlov, on Sunday, explaining that the organization’s website had been blocked by media regulators at the request of the Prosecutor General’s office. According to the group, this was down to its ties with Spolecnost Svobody Informace, a Prague-based NGO designated as an ‘undesirable organization’ and effectively banned from operating in Russia.

The statement says the group believes that shutting down is preferable to a protracted legal battle. “The next step in the attack on us could be the criminal prosecution of both Team 29 members and supporters,” it said. “Under these circumstances, the continuation of Team 29 poses a direct and clear threat to the safety of a large number of people, and we cannot ignore this risk. We are taking the hard decision to terminate Team 29.”

Also on rt.com Prominent Russian lawyer detained after raid by security forces, reportedly charged with leaking from confidential ‘spying’ trial

In April, Pavlov was detained by authorities after a raid on his Moscow hotel room. According to him, files were seized pertaining to the defense of one of his high-profile clients, Ivan Safronov, who stands accused of passing state secrets to the Czech government. Safronov previously worked as a journalist before being hired as an adviser by Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos.

At the same time, the offices of Team 29 in Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, were searched by the Investigation Committee, the group’s press service told journalists. As well as Safronov, Pavlov and his group have advocated for a number of high-profile defendants, including Karina Tsurkan, a former manager at energy holding company Inter RAO accused of espionage.

In addition, Pavlov represented Alexey Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, which already registered as a ‘foreign agent’ over its ties to overseas funding and faced being designated as an ‘extremist organization.’ The court handed the group the designation in June.

Also on rt.com Space, spies & suicide: How Roscosmos adviser & ex-journo Ivan Safronov crash-landed at the centre of NATO-linked espionage drama

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