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Russian PEN uner threat

30th March 2006

Dear all,
We have received this from a member. Please publicise it as much as you
With best wishes



The Russian PEN Centre is latest victim of Putin’s campaign against free

English PEN is deeply concerned by the charges recently brought against
Russian PEN that could force the centre to close. Russian PEN’s assets
have been frozen after allegations that the organisation has failed to pay
land tax.

The charges come at the height of an apparent crackdown on
Non-Governmental Organisations (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 organisational and fundraising activities
of NGOs.

In November 2005 Russian PEN published a declaration sharply criticising
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 organisations, but also scientific,
cultural and other humanitarian collectives which already are finding it
hard to exist.’

Although officers of the Russian PEN Centre appeared before the court with
documentation showing that the Centre 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 shut down the Centre’s ability to operate at a time
when its work is crucial to protecting freedom of speech in Russia. The
Centre has also been threatened with sequestration of its office equipment
and furnishings.

Vice President Michael Frayn said: ‘Freedom of expression is a delicate
plant in Russian culture, and it needs all the institutional support it
can get. Even the appearance of undermining it would confirm the world’s
worst fears about the direction of the country's political development.’

International PEN Secretary Joanne Leedom-Ackerman noted: ‘The Director of
Russian PEN Alexander Tkachenko and Russian PEN members have been
courageous advocates for freedom of expression on behalf of writers in
Russia and throughout the world. PEN members around the globe are deeply
disturbed by the threat to NGOs and by the decision to close Russian PEN.

YOU CAN HELP International PEN is already halfway to raising $20,000, the
amount that would be necessary to cover the tax bill if the court affirms
that Russian PEN is obligated to pay this. International appeals may be
helpful in discouraging the court from upholding additional penalties for
late payment on top of the $20,000 tax bill. Russian PEN confirms that if
this sum is raised they will be able to unfreeze their accounts and
continue to operate. In the event of having to face further penalties,
this amount is enough to forestall any foreclosure or collection efforts,
unfreeze Russian PEN’s accounts, and put it on some kind of repayment

If you are able to send a donation, however small, to help RUSSIAN PEN
please send a cheque made out to English PEN (pls write Russian PEN on the
back of the cheque) and send to English PEN, 6-8 Amwell Street, London
EC1R 1UQ by 5pm Monday 3 April

PEN Centres whose members have donated or pledged support so far are:
Scottish PEN, Independent Chinese PEN Centre, Japanese PEN, German PEN,
and PEN American Centre. This, together with private contributions,
amounts to around $12,200 dollars. $3,000 of this – Japanese PEN’s
contribution – has already been delivered to Russian PEN and is being used
to pay for legal expenses, so does not count toward the goal of $20,000.

Members might also like to send letters in support of Russian PEN to
Vladimir Putin, Vladimir Lukin, and Ella Pamfilova (titles and addresses
below). NB Letters that express concern and emphasise the importance of
Russian PEN, but do not seem accusatory or confrontational are most likely
to be effective and please

Express concern that Russian PEN is in court defending itself on tax
charges, and make clear that the PEN world considers Russian PEN a vital
part of the International PEN community and is watching the case closely

Mention that you understand the question of whether Russian PEN owes these
taxes is very much in dispute, and that you 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.

Emphasise the importance of Russian PEN, with its many illustrious members
representing one of the world’s great literatures, both for Russian
letters and for PEN and the international literary community.

Appeals to be sent to:

Vladimir Putin

President of the Russian Federation

The Kremlin

Moscow, Russia

Fax: 011 7 095 206 5173; 206 6277

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


For further information please contact [removed]

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