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Canadian human rights lawyer banned in Russia over Falun Gong report

Falun Gong members meditate during a demonstration outside the Chinese government's local liaison office in Hong Kong June 30, 2007.

NIR ELIAS/REUTERS/NIR ELIAS/REUTERS

An international human rights lawyer from Canada says he has been banned from Russia over a report he did on Falun Gong followers.

Winnipeg's David Matas wrote that practitioners were rounded up and killed so their organs could be harvested.

Mr. Matas was a 2010 Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

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He says he didn't know about the ban until he was the keynote speaker at a conference last year on Internet hate speech in Kyiv.

He says the ban means he will not be able to accept an invitation to speak at a conference in Russia this year.

The Chinese government banned the Falun Gong movement in 1999 over fears it was becoming too popular and could challenge communist ideology.

The report said practitioners were arrested and asked to renounce the practice in writing. It said those who refused, even after torture, disappeared by the hundreds of thousands into Chinese gulags, a network of re-education through labour camps, which essentially became a source for organ donor banks.

The document by Mr. Matas and former Edmonton MP David Kilgour, also active in human rights issues, was apparently labelled extremist literature in Russia.

"This activist who was tracking the ban on extremist literature in Russia came up to me (in Kyiv) and said, 'Did you know that what you've written is on the banned extremist literature list in conjunction with a number of Falun Gong members?'" Mr. Matas said.

The report was published in three versions, first in 2006 and 2007, then as the book "Bloody Harvest" in 2009. The first and second versions were translated into Russian and distributed in Russia.

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A court in Krasnodar, Russia, banned the report in August 2008. The ban was based on a court-chosen expert opinion that the report, "can create for the readers a negative image of China, its social and political system, representatives of authorities, medical workers, military, etc."

It was appealed by Russian activists who worried the ban on extremist literature was being misused to silence opposition and could be used for oppression.

Mr. Matas and Mr. Kilgour, who is also banned, filed a statement for the appeal.

"A report cannot be considered extremist simply because it is critical of the policies or practices of any government system, representatives or officials," they told the Russian court. "...Neither international nor Russian law is intended to render the policies or practices of any government system, representatives or officials, whether domestic or foreign, immune from criticism."

Last month, the ban was upheld by the Krasnodar regional court.

Mr. Matas is asking the Canadian government to issue a diplomatic note of protest to Russia over the banning of the report.

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