A Russian LGBT film festival has lost an appeal against fines made against it under new controversial ‘foreign agent’ laws.
The Bok o Bok (Side by Side) Festival, which originated in the city of St Petersburg, was established in 2007, and recently expanded to several other Russian cities including Moscow, Tomsk, Arkhangelsk, Perm and Novosibirsk.
Authorities began an investigation of the organisation in March, and a judge previously ruled that the festival must pay 500,000 rubles (£10,000), in fines, for failing to register as a “foreign agent”, under controversial new laws.
On recently introducing the laws, the Kremlin said that any NGOs must register if they are in receipt of funding from foreign parties. The Side by Side festival denied receiving any foreign funding.
Today Judge E V Botantsova of the Kubyshevskiy District Court in St Petersburg returned the guilty verdict after an appeal against the fines.
Appeals started yesterday with defence lawyers Dmitry Bartenev and Sergey Golubok arguing the case against the fines. Reports from the court house suggested that the defence lawyers provided a much stronger case than the prosecutors.
The only difference made by Judge Botantsova was to reduce the fine by 100,000 rubles to 400,000 (£8,000).
Festival organisers released a statement regarding the fines, and condemning recently passed anti-gay laws.
“Side by Side has been at the forefront of fighting for LGBT rights in Russia. In the six year period that we have existed, working throughout the country we have constantly come up against attack from the authorities, festivals being banned in Saint Petersburg (2008), Archangelsk (2010), Kemerovo (2010 and 2012) and Tomsk (2011).
“In a country that does not respect the rule of law, the rights of its citizens today’s verdict comes as no surprise to us. It is clear that the case is clearly politically motivated. The LGBT community is under persecution, a scapegoat for the country’s ills, on which the government is basing its populist policies.”
This week, reports emerged of a neo-Nazi Russian group has taken to social media to publicise images and videos of gay teenagers lured in on the promise of a date, before torturing them and forcing them to come out to friends and family on video.
In May, a gay man from the southern Russian city of Volgograd who was tortured to death in an apparent hate crime, was sexually assaulted with beer bottles, and had his skull “smashed with a stone”, authorities said.