Barents Observer Editor Thomas Nilsen’s case against FSB up in Moscow City Court

Thomas Nilsen on the border. (Atle Staalesen/The Independent Barents Observer)

Eye on the Arctic editor’s note: The Independent Barents Observer is part of the Eye on the Arctic circumpolar news partnership. The below story is an IBO report on the court proceedings launched to overturn the ban blocking IBO editor Thomas Nilsen from entering Russia.


Preliminary proceedings in the case were on Wednesday conducted by the local Meshchansky court in Moscow. On the same day, the case was forwarded to the Moscow City Court. The reason is that the documents which are planned applied by the FSB in the case include state secrets, 7×7-journal reports.

The Russian online news magazine had a journalist represented in Meshchansky court room as the decision was announced. Being banned from entering Russia, Nilsen himself was represented by lawyer Maks Olenitchev.

It is not clear exactly when the case will be handled by the Moscow City Court.

Thomas Nilsen took the FSB to court after he on 8th March this year was stopped at Borisoglebsk, the border checkpoint between Russia and Norway, and told that he was no longer wanted in Russia. The travel ban will last for five years, the FSB told the editor.

No explanation of the ban was given, only that Nilsen represented a «threat against Russian national security». It soon became clear that Nilsen had been put on Russia’s so-called stop lists of unwanted individuals as a response to the EU’s and Norway’s list of sanctioned individuals from Russia.

In a comment, lawyer Ivan Pavlov makes clear that the upcoming case proceedings in the Moscow City Court will include more FSB secrecies.

«I have in previous cases experienced this kind of processes, and in the following we can expect that the representatives of the special service will try to reject to make public the text of the very decision [to ban Nilsen entry] with reference to some kind of normative acts which subsequently also will be classified».

«We will do our best to not let them continue with these absurdities […]», the lawyer writes on his Facebook page.

Pavlov is one of the lawyers representing Nilsen in the case. On board is also a team of several more lawyers from Team29, the group of human rights law experts. The team argues that the FSB’s travel ban is illegal because it contradicts with the Russian Constitution and is not based on the decision of a competent body.

Nilsen’s case against the FSB was initially to be handled by the City Court of Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia, in the city which houses the regional branch of the FSB Border Guards. However, the Petrozavodsk court did not agree to take the case. The case was subsequently tried for the local Pechenga court in Zapolyarny, the border town near the Norwegian border, where the judge declined to acknowledge the illegal character of the expulsion.

In a comment, Thomas Nilsen says he is glad that the case will be coming up in the Moscow court.

«But what I first of all would have liked to do is to go to Russia and the northern city of Arkhangelsk, where the Barents Euro-Arctic Council meeting takes place this week».

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s foreign affairs minister looks to thaw relations with Russia at Arctic summit, Radio Canada International

Finland: Norway and Sweden surpass Finland in 2017 press freedom rankings, Yle News

Norway: Norwegian editor banned from Russia takes FSB to court, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Norway’s selective approach for cooperation is not tenable : Russia’s Oslo Embassy, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Rural citizen journalism and fake news in the spotlight in North Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska’s Arctic policy adviser falls victim to fake news — in Russia, Alaska Dispatch News

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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