Judge Recommends Dismissal of Activist's Harassment Lawsuit

, New York Law Journal

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A federal magistrate judge has recommended dismissing a lawsuit by a U.S.-based Russian activist accusing a former Russian lawmaker who is seeking asylum in the United States of filing a defamation claim against the activist for political reasons.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein (See Profile) of the Southern District of New York said in a report and recommendation Thursday in Egiazaryan v. Zalmayev, 1:11-cv-02670, that the activist, Peter Zalmayev, had not supported his claim that former Russian parliamentarian Ashot Egiazaryan sued him for the purpose of harassing and intimidating him.

The report and recommendation will now go before U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel (See Profile), who will decide whether to adopt it.

"We are delighted with the judge's opinion, which we think speaks for itself," said Mark Zauderer of Flemming Zulack Williamson Zauderer, who represents Egiazaryan.

Andrew Ryan of Salisbury & Ryan, who represents Zalmayev, said, "We respectfully disagree with Magistrate Judge Gorenstein's Recommendations and are discussing the matter with our client."

Egiazaryan, a former banker, was elected to the Duma, Russia's lower house of Parliament, in 1999 and remained a member until 2010, when he left Russia for the United States in the middle of his term. When he left, Egiazaryan was stripped of the immunity normally given to members of the Duma and was facing indictment for taking part in a multimillion dollar real estate fraud. Egiazaryan said he left because he and his family were being threatened by a political and business enemy, Russian senator Suleyman Kerimov.

Once in the United States, Egiazaryan applied for political asylum. He has claimed that if he is forced to return to Russia, he could be killed.

Zalmayev has been a public opponent of asylum for Egiazaryan. He is the founder and head of the New Eurasia Democracy Initiative, a New York-based nonprofit. He described his organization's mission in court papers as to "promote democracy, the rule of law and tolerance in post-Communist societies and countries in Eastern and Central Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia."

Zalmayev has written multiple articles opposing asylum for Egiazaryan. He has admitted that he was paid $100,000 to do this, paid by Andrey Vavilov through an intermediary. Vavilov also has paid Zalmayev’s legal fees throughout the litigation against Egiazaryan.

One of the articles, "Hiding in Beverly Hills," published in March 2011 in the Jewish Journal, characterized Egiazaryan as a fugitive from justice and stressed that he is a member and financial backer of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, which the article characterized as "ultranationalist" and anti-Semitic. It described Egiazaryan as a "friend" of party founder Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who has made plainly anti-Semitic public statements.

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