UPDATE: Baikal Grantee Still Battling Corrupt Officials
February 25, 2010 | No Comments
Earlier this month, Greengrants posted a Breaking News on the illegal search and seizure in the offices of longtime grantee Baikal Environmental Wave (BEW), (see “Russian Authorities Pressure Baikal Grantee through Police Raid”). Our Russia Advisory Board responded immediately with a $3,000 grant to BEW to help the group recover from the raid, and although their resolve has only grown stronger, Russian officials continue to harass the group.
According to Jennie Sutton, a founder and co-President of BEW, police have returned 3 of the 12 processors they took, but refuse to return the remaining 9 computers on account of each having ‘unlicensed’ Microsoft programs. Even though BEW has repeatedly produced the necessary documents and discs to prove the programs are licensed (including when the computers were first confiscated), Russian officials have filed a criminal charge against the group. The charge is based on ‘damages to Microsoft,’ amounting to US$3,889, the local market price of that number of licensed Microsoft programs. Although BEW has submitted a complaint to the court of arbitration regarding the pending charge, the ‘criminal’ component means that their three co-chairs would be held personally responsible if found guilty.
It remains to be seen how far officials will go to intimidate Baikal Environmental Wave and stifle grassroots environmentalism in the region. Despite this latest challenge, the organization has seen an outpouring of support from the public and other civil society groups. “The two militiamen who come to our office (one from the ‘Consumer Market’ division, the other from the ‘Extremists’ division) complain that they are tired of ‘these NGOs,’” said Sutton, “Because there have been so many phone calls and letters from supporters about the case and they have to go to the trouble of answering them! ”
BEW expressed their ‘deep gratitude’ for the immediate support from Greengrants, made possible in part by donor responses to our Breaking News story. Thank you to those who contributed!