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Russia upholds desision to deport American wife of leading human rights lawyer
On 19 August 2014, Frunzenskiy District Court in Saint-Petersburg upheld the decision of the Federal Migration Service to deport Ms Jennifer Gaspar, a citizen of the USA. Jennifer Gaspar is the wife of human rights lawyer Mr Ivan Pavlov, who is Head Counsel at the Institute for Freedom of Information Development Foundation, an independent non-governmental organisation campaigning for transparency in government and providing regular public monitoring of state authorities.
Jennifer Gaspar received a letter on 5 August 2014 from the Federal Migration Service in Saint-Petersburg notifying her that her residence permit had been cancelled by the authorities. Jennifer Gaspar has lived in Russia since 2004 and has worked as a consultant with various non-governmental organisations operating in the Russia Federation on issues such as children's rights and AIDs. Jennifer Gaspar's residence permit was previously valid until February 2015. She intends to appeal this decision in a higher court.
According to the Federal Migration Service letter, the decision to nullify Jennifer Gaspar's residence permit was made on 21 July 2014 due to a “threat to national security”. According to the notification, the day on which she received the letter – 5 August 2014 – was her last day of permitted stay in Russia. The following day, she appealed the notification in a court.
On 12 August 2014, the court hearings began in Frunzenskiy District Court in Saint-Petersburg and continued on 14 August 2014. During the court hearings, representatives from the Federal Migration Service referred to secret correspondence with the Federal Security Service (FSB), which claimed to cancel Jennifer Gaspar's residence permit according to the Federal Law “About the legal status of foreigners”, which allows for the revocation of a residence permit where a “foreign citizen supports violent change of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation or threatens the security of Russia by other activities”. The judge declined Jennifer Gaspar's lawyer's petition to disclose the reasons for the decision or to summon the FSB's representative in court.
In October 2013, Jennifer Gaspar applied for Russian citizenship, but the Migration Service office denied her application on 18 March 2014. Reportedly, officials from the Federal Migration Service told Jennifer Gaspar informally that she would have to wait until US-Russian relations are “normalised” before her application for Russian citizenship is successful.
On 11 July 2013, the Institute for Freedom of Information Development Foundation received a prosecutor's warning of violation cautioning that the group may have to register as a “foreign agent” as a result of its “political activities”. According to the prosecutor's office warning, some postings on the organisation's website were deemed to be potentially “political”. During the last two years, the Institute for Freedom of Information Development Foundation has faced two intrusive inspections from the prosecutor's office; in March 2013 and January 2014.
On 27 January 2014, after the second inspection, the prosecutor's office issued an official notice of violation obliging the Institute for Freedom of Information Development Foundation to register as a 'foreign agent'. The group appealed this prosecutor's notice arguing that its activities are not “political” and are not aimed to change state policy. Rather, the Institute for Freedom of Information Development Foundation supports the constitutional role of monitoring state bodies' transparency. The next court hearings are scheduled for 21 August 2014.
Front Line Defenders believes that the harassment of human rights defender Ivan Pavlov and his wife is indicative of a wider approach taken by the Russian authorities to pressurise individuals and organisations working on human rights in the Russian Federation to register as 'foreign agents'.