PEN American Center is deeply concerned about recent charges brought against Russian PEN that could force the center to close. Russian PEN’s assets have been frozen after allegations that the organization has failed to pay land tax. The charges come at the height of an apparent crackdown on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Russia, particularly those with an international dimension. In spite of strong opposition from both within and outside Russia, President Vladimir Putin signed a law earlier this year that severely restricts the organizational and fundraising activities of NGOs.

In November 2005, Russian PEN published a declaration sharply criticizing the proposed law regulating the work of NGOs. The declaration noted: ‘In the event that the Deputies should pass this law, the main blow will be felt not just by Russian human rights organizations, but also scientific, cultural and other humanitarian collectives which already are finding it hard to exist.’

Although officers of the Russian PEN Center appeared before the court with documentation showing that the Center is a legal tenant of the property where it has conducted its business, and that it is not liable for the tax on the land, the tax office refused to drop the charges. The freezing of its bank account will impede the Center’s ability to operate at a time when its work is crucial to protecting freedom of speech in Russia. The Center has also been threatened with sequestration of its office equipment and furnishings.

The hearing has been postponed to from March 27 to April 4 or 5 and will take place at the Arbitration division of the 9th Court of Appeals. Please send out your appeals letters as soon as possible to arrive before next week’s court date.

 


RECOMMENDED ACTION

Please send letters of appeal in support of Russian PEN:

  • Expressing your concern that Russian PEN is in court defending itself on tax charges

  • Emphasizing the importance of Russian PEN’s work to the International PEN Community

  • Making clear that PEN is watching the case closely

Please write a polite letter on your personal or institutional letterhead – or copy the one below – and mail/fax to President Vladimir Putin, Human Rights Ombudsmen Vladimir P. Lukin, and President’s Council on Democracy and Human Rights Head Ella Pamfilova (postage 84¢)


SAMPLE APPEAL LETTER:

[Date]
Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation
The Kremlin
Moscow, Russia
Fax: 011 7 095 206 5173; 206 6277

Your Excellency,

As one of the 3,100 writers who are members of PEN American Center, I am writing to express my serious concern about the recent charges brought against the Russian PEN Center which place the existence of this important organization at risk. The international PEN community values the contributions of Russian PEN and its members to Russia’s great literary tradition.

It is my understanding that Russian PEN’s assets were frozen after allegations that the organization has failed to pay land tax. However, although officers of the Russian PEN Center appeared before the court with documentation showing that the Center is a legal tenant of the property where it has conducted its business, and that it is not liable for the tax on the land, the tax office refused to drop the charges. I also understand that several experts, including members of the Moscow Duma, who helped write the relevant land and tax laws, believe Russian PEN had no obligation to pay taxes under the agreement under which it occupied its offices.

I am deeply concerned that freezing Russian PEN’s assets prevents the center from carrying out its work, which is crucial to the international literary community.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

Cc: Vladimir P. Lukin
Human Rights Ombudsmen
Tel/Fax 7-495-207 53 37
Ella Pamfilova
Head, President’s Council on Democracy and Human Rights
103132, Ipatievskiy per., 4/10, Entrance 6
Moscow, Russia
sovetpamfilova@yandex.ru