SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Two Russian activists have filed a lawsuit against the Sochi Olympics organizers after they were barred from attending the games, their lawyer said Friday.
Semyon Simonov, a Sochi activist who documented widespread abuse of migrant workers at Olympic construction sites, and Moscow-based prisoner rights activist Nikolai Levshits both insist they were barred because of their outspoken positions. They bought tickets for the games and then applied for spectator passes without which visitors will not be admitted to the sports venues, and both were refused without explanation.
Rights groups including Human Rights Watch have accused Russian authorities of harassing activists in Sochi in the run-up to the games, which run Feb. 7-23 in the Black Sea resort.
At least two other activists also have been denied access to the games.
Russian government officials and Sochi organizers have said that the spectator pass is necessary to keep the games safe. Some intelligence experts, however, have described the pass as an unprecedented screening measure that could be used to bar critics. Everyone who applies for the pass needs to provide passport numbers and other personal details.
The Sochi organizing committee confirmed to the AP in an emailed statement that it reserves the right to refuse to issue a spectator pass, but added that a person who buys a ticket and is refused a pass can apply for reimbursement for the cost of the ticket. The committee did not comment on the lawsuit.
Simonov said he bought a ticket for an ice hockey game in January and then applied for the spectator pass. The application is supposed to be considered within 72 hours, but in his case it took 110 hours and ended in refusal.