US expresses solidarity with rights activists

The US delegation at the OSCE conference in Vienna on terror victims left the conference hall in protest at the refusal to allow the Nizhny Novogorod-based Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS) to attend the meeting on 13 September 2007, Russian news agency Sobkor(R).ru reported.

One of the meeting’s moderators explained that the refusal was due to the fact that “one OSCE member country” was opposed to the participation of the RCFS at the event. Representatives of Canada, Britain, Portugal, and Norway, as well as terror victims from Russia, expressed their dismay at the refusal.

Vladimir Titorenko, official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that the RCFS was closed down by a Russian court in October 2006 for “involvement in extremism and terrorism”. He accused the organisation of distributing interviews of “international terrorists” like Akhmed Zakaev and Aslan Maskhadov.

Titorenko expressed concern that after the RCFS was banned in Russia, the organisation was registered in Finland. He announced that the Russian delegation would leave the conference if the RCFS was allowed to attend. The Russian delegation includes two Foreign Ministry officials (Vladimir Titorenko and Anton Varfolomeyev) and one official from the General Prosecutor’s Office (Irina Aleshina).

The US note of protest at the refusal to let the RCFS attend read, in part:

This morning, we heard about the refusal to let the RCFS, a respected and honourable organisation, to take part in the OSCE meeting. We have worked hard for peaceful NGOs to be able to attend meetings like this. We are therefore greatly distressed and voice our protest at this decision. This decision must not set a precedent for OSCE meetings.

After this announcement, the US delegation left the conference hall..

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