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Moscow court bans National Bolsheviks as extremist organization

MOSCOW, April 19 (RIA Novosti) -- The Moscow City Court has declared the controversial National Bolshevik Party (NBP) an extremist organization and banned its activities following a request from prosecutors.

The NBP took part in unsanctioned opposition protests - March of Dissent - at the weekend, demanding the president's resignation and free and fair elections. Police detained 250 and 170 people in Moscow and St. Petersburg respectively.

"The court has ruled to grant the request by the Moscow prosecutor's office and declare extremist the interregional public organization NBP and ban its activity," the court ruling said. NBP has already been banned as a party in June 2005 for failing to get registered.

Unlike prosecutors who expressed satisfaction with the verdict, Sergei Belyak, a lawyer representing NBP leader Eduard Limonov in court, said he would appeal within ten days with the Supreme Court of Russia. "Today's decision is shameful and appalling, it is not based on law at all," Belyak said.

Limonov, also a controversial writer, called the trial "a farce". "An organization called NBP has not been registered with any state agency, and there is no evidence that I am leading any organization or party," Limonov said.

The NBP has gained scandalous publicity for its activities: in December 2004, party members broke into the reception office of the Kremlin administration in Moscow, and into the Health Ministry, where they committed acts of vandalism. In May 2005, party members used abseiling equipment to hang a drape on the wall of the Rossiya Hotel, which looked onto the Kremlin across Red Square, with the slogan "Putin, get out yourself!"

In December that year, 31 NBP activists received suspended sentences, and eight others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from one and a half to three and a half years, for inciting public disturbances when they broke into the presidential staff visitors' room a year earlier to protest President Vladimir Putin's political reforms.

In September 2006, NBP members burst into the Finance Ministry, throwing leaflets and demanding that bank deposits lost in the turbulent 1990s be returned to their owners. Witnesses said the trespassers injured a security guard.

Fifty NBP activists were arrested in October 2006 when trying to enter the State Duma building to attend a parliamentary session, citing the Constitution, which says parliamentary sessions are open to the public.

The Russian authorities have accused the NBP of organizing violent acts and using firearms on numerous occasions. In spring 2001, Limonov was arrested for purchasing and possessing firearms. The Federal Security Service said that Limonov had also attempted to form an illegal armed unit that allegedly planned attacks in Kazakhstan. A court sentenced Limonov to four years in a high security prison. In summer 2003, he was released early for good behavior after serving more than half his sentence. Limonov called the charges brought against him politically motivated and denied his guilt.

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