First LGBT Activists Sentenced Under Federal Propaganda Law

A court in Arkhangelsk, Northern Russia has found two LGBT activists in breach of a law against “propaganda” promoting “non-traditional” relationships to minors. Nikolai Alexeyev co-founder of the Moscow Gay Pride Movement and a fellow activist Yaroslav Yevtushenko were fined, arrested and put on trial for picketing in front of the Children’s Library.

“This is a clear violation of freedom of expression and assembly of these LGBT-activists. This law has opened up for systematic violations of basic human rights of LGBT-people and the Russian lawmakers should amend it immediately to comply with international standards and the Russian constitution,” said Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director for Eurasia, Civil Rights Defenders.

These well-known LGBT activists have become the first to be penalised under the controversial federal law prohibiting the propaganda of unconventional sexual relationships amongst minors in Russia which was adopted in June 2013. A picket had been arranged outside the Children’s Library in protest against the city councils refusal to give permission to LGBT activists to hold an organised protest in Arkhangelsk. Their decision to proceed with the picket, despite the council’s ruling was met with the full force of the law. Alexeyev and Yevtushenko carried banners bearing the slogans: “Gay propaganda does not exist. People do not become gay, people are born gay,”and were immediately arrested by police.

At trial both LGBT activists refused to plead guilty in Court and fully intend to appeal the decision at October’s Regional Court in the city of Arkhangelsk within the allotted 10 day statute of limitations.

Before the federal law was passed in June, ten Russian cities introduced their own local homophobic laws, including Arkhangelsk, St. Petersburg, Kostroma and Ryazan imposing fines for gay propaganda. Both the local laws and the federal law has been used repeatedly to interfere LGBT-events, ban street actions, arrest and in other ways harass LGBT-activists. The laws have also contributed to increased discrimination and violence of LGBT-activists in the Russian society. This recent ruling further reinforces the persecution of the LGBT community in Russia.

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