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Russia court rules smuggling charges against ex-NGO head unconstitutional

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation [official website, in Russian] ruled Tuesday that the law under which the former head of media advocacy NGO Educated Media Foundation (EMF) was charged in 2007 was unconstitutionally vague [press release], requiring that smuggling charges against her be dropped. Manana Aslamaziyan [profile] was arrested after she entered the country without declaring over $12,000 in cash; she was indicted under a law that made it illegal to bring a "large sum" of money over the border without declaring it, but the law did not define what constituted a large sum. Aslamaziyan has maintained that the charges against her were without merit. The Moscow Times has more.

EMF is a non-governmental organization working to train Russian journalists to encourage the growth of independent and alternative media. Last year, Russian authorities conducted a raid [BBC report] on EMF's main Moscow offices amid a growing Russian government crack-down on NGOs [JURIST report]; hundreds of Russian journalists later joined in a protest letter [text] to then-Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, Putin signed a law [JURIST report] granting tighter state control over non-governmental organizations, including those that were foreign-funded. The law has been widely criticized [JURIST report], but its supporters have defended it as necessary to prevent foreign governments and organizations from using NGOs to undermine Russia's security.

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