Moscow customs confiscate laptop from senior election monitor

Moscow airport customs confiscated a laptop on Saturday from the leader of the Golos independent election monitoring group accused of violations ahead of the Sunday parliamentary polls.

Golos has denied all charges.

The laptop was confiscated from Liliya Shibanova, head of the U.S.-funded non-governmental Golos organization, for “expert examination” when she arrived at the Sheremetyevo airport from Warsaw and was passing through the green corridor, the customs spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman declined to say what sort of information could be of interest to the customs but added that some information could not be imported into Russia under law.

Shibanova’s lawyer Svetlana Sidorkina said she would file an appeal as the confiscated laptop contained “private and family information,” which is protected by law.

“The actions must be appealed and we are preparing documents on the matter,” Sidorkina said, adding that Shibanova had not been allowed to invite her lawyer to handle the incident.

Shibanova said the laptop data had been copied to two discs, one for Golos and one for investigators.

Later on Saturday, the Russian human rights council asked rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin to clarify the situation around Golos. The council described the organization as law-abiding and “committed to ensuring transparent and lawful elections.”

Golos troubles began when parliamentarians of three parties asked for an inquiry into the organization, dubbing it “an agent of foreign influence”. Investigators said the organization released election-related information after a five-day moratorium came into force in the runup to the December 4 election day.

On Friday, a Moscow magistrate court ruled to fine Golos 30,000 rubles ($1,000).

The court ruling came shortly after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused “representatives of some foreign countries” of using NGOs to “influence the course of the election campaign” in Russia.

The White House expressed concern on Friday over what they described as the political pressure on Golos ahead of the Sunday elections.


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