New Zealand has refused to grant asylum to a human rights lawyer and academic who spoke out about election fixing in Russia.
The woman and her two children fear being killed or seriously harmed in Russia by police or state security services after reporting the electoral fraud and because of her involvement in supporting opposition to the Russian government.
They claimed refugee status, but have been told their risk of harm is no more than “remote and speculative”.
The 53-year-old, who was a lawyer specialising in civil law and human rights, had worked as a senior university law lecturer and later associate professor, but was forced to resign after she publicised her concerns about voting irregularities.
She was a volunteer monitor at a 2016 election held to elect candidates for the forthcoming state parliamentary elections.
Her 27-year-old son was an observer at a different polling station and saw a large bundle of votes stuffed into a ballot box by an election official. About 400 people had come through the school hall doors to vote, but more than 1200 ballot papers were later counted.
She sent a report to the election supervising committee and she and her son attended a press conference held by a journalist and former parliamentarian at which she confirmed voting irregularities.
She later spoke about it at an academic conference hosted by a government ministry and wrote an article for an academic journal.
The family arrived in New Zealand three years later, with the woman saying the political situation in Russia and silencing of dissenting voices and opinions had worsened. She was concerned her posts, blogs and appearances at protests would lead to consequences for her family if they returned to Russia.