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Russian Human Rights Group Complains About Office Closure

MOSCOW. May 16 (Interfax) - A Russian nongovernmental organization whose declared task is to defend the rights of voters complained on Tuesday that law enforcement authorities unlawfully closed its office in the city of Samara on May 10 after having conducted a search.

Operatives who searched the office, "saying that the reason for their actions was the absence of licensed software, seized two old computers that stored records dating back to 2000 and paper documents," the Golos NGO said in a press release in Moscow.

The operatives "did not leave any inventory of the property they seized," it said.

Golos spokeswoman Marina Dashinkova said the search and closure of the office had followed a program on Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy in which the head of the office, Lyudmila Kuzmina, spoke about the "March of Dissent" planned by the opposition.

"The Golos association appeals to authorities, the public, the mass media, and international organizations to uphold the demands of the Golos association for the Samara office to be unsealed, the seized property returned, and the organization to be allowed to carry out its civil function of defending the rights of Russian citizens," the release said.

The release was supplemented with a comment by Kuzmina: "I won't be a second teacher Ponosov - I'm meeting with a lawyer tomorrow."

Alexander Ponosov is the principal of a Russian village school who was ordered to pay a fine equivalent to half his monthly salary after a Russian court found him guilty of copyright violations for allowing students to use computers with pirated Microsoft software.

Interfax has not yet been able to obtain any comments from any of the law enforcement agencies.