European Parliament members: Russia must permit free assembly, elections

April 11, 2011

Two members of the European Parliament, visiting Moscow to meet with human rights organizations, called on Russia on Monday to permit citizens to assemble freely without harassment and to guarantee free and fair elections for parliament later this year and for president next year.

“If the elections are not free,” said Kristiina Ojuland, a member of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, “it’s clear the next Parliament would have no legitimacy.”

Ojuland and Heidi Hautula, head of the parliament’s human rights committee, praised Russia for promising an independent investigation into the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the imprisoned former billionaire, but said those officials responsible for the death in pretrial detention of Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky must be tried and punished.

“We will see very soon if something is accomplished,” Hautula said, “or if it’s just another nice gesture by the president without too many consequences.”

Perhaps hundreds of other similar cases have not reached public attention, Ojuland said.

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