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Russian Rights Activist Calls Her Exclusion From Prison Watchdog Political

Russian activist Marina Litvinovich
Russian activist Marina Litvinovich

MOSCOW -- A well-known Russian rights activist, Marina Litvinovich, says last week's decision by the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission (ONK) to exclude her from the group was politically motivated.

The commission on March 5 voted to leave Litvinovich off the panel saying that, in a televised interview earlier, she had disclosed information related to a probe launched into Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation. Sobol is currently under detention on charges of breaking coronavirus restrictions by publicly calling on Moscow residents to take part in unsanctioned rallies to support Navalny.

Members of the ONK monitor the rights of inmates in Russian penitentiaries and have a right to visit detention centers and correctional facilities to hear complaints from inmates.

Litvinovich told Current Time in an interview on March 9 that the allegations against her were false and that the decision to exclude her from the group she had served on since 2019 was made due to her activism.

"The fact is, what I said has nothing to do with the materials of the investigation. I cited the actions of investigators that had been already implemented. I did not say anything about their results or conclusions," Litvinovich said.

She emphasized that, in accordance with the law, even if she unintentionally revealed any data related to Sobol's case, protocol dictates that she would be warned by investigators and sign corresponding papers, which never happened.

"I think it is... about the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service (FSB), who are concerned [about my activities.] Because I frequently visit Lefortovo detention center [in Moscow] which is controlled by the FSB, talk about people kept there, defend their rights, assist them, constantly keep in touch with their relatives, do all I can to secure medical assistance for those people as well," Litvinovich said, adding that she was aware that the ONK's decision to expel her was based on at least two complaints filed by the Lefortovo detention center.

According to Litvinovich, she has also been targeted by the Interior Ministry because she constantly was at the Sakharovo detention center talking to hundreds who were detained during the mass arrests of demonstrators protesting in January and early February against Navalny's incarceration.

The selection of the members of the ONK has been marred in recent years by the exclusion of many well-known human rights activists critical of the authorities.

The decision to expel her from the staff must still be approved by the ONK's Council to become valid.

Litvinovich said she will turn to the courts if the move is approved.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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