Russia’s highest court on Thursday began hearing a petition to shut down Memorial, one of the country’s oldest and most prominent human rights groups.
The move provoked outrage among the public during a month-long crackdown on activists, independent media and opposition supporters.
Several hours into the hearing, the court decided to adjourn until December 14.
The Attorney General’s Office earlier this month requested the Supreme Court to revoke the Memorial’s legal status.
The International Human Rights Group became prominent for its studies of political repression in the Soviet Union and currently includes more than 50 smaller groups in Russia and abroad.
Memorial was declared a “foreign agent” in 2016 – a label that involves further scrutiny by the government and has strong derogatory connotations that can discredit the targeted organization. Prosecutors allege that the group repeatedly violated rules that obliged it to mark itself as a “foreign agent” and tried to hide the designation.
Memorial and its supporters have argued that the allegations are politically motivated.
When a hearing on the application to end the Memorial began on Thursday, large crowds gathered in front of the Supreme Court building to show support for the organization.
At least three people must have been arrested – among them two elderly women holding banners that read “Thank you, Memorial, for remembering us” and “You can not kill the memory of the people.”
Oleg Orlov, chairman of the Memorial, said on Thursday that the group will appeal the verdict, if the court decides to close it, and will continue its activities. “
We will appeal to the European Court of Justice and we will continue to work in one way or another. “It may not be within the International Monument that would be liquidated, but we also have the Moscow Monument and many monuments in the regions of Russia – until they are liquidated,” he said.
In recent months, the Russian government has designated a number of independent media, journalists and human rights groups as “foreign agents”.
At least two were dissolved to avoid a harder strike.