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A man might be jailed in Russia for saying ‘there is no God’ online

Joseph McCormick April 9, 2016
Russia putin getty

(Getty)

An atheist man in Russia is facing jail after saying “there is no God” in an online forum.

Viktor Krasnov, 38, this week condemned his trial as an “absurd farce”. He faces the punishment after likening the Bible to “fairytales” during an online conversation.

The law was passed after Pussy Riot were jailed for protesting against President Putin

He says he is “in shock” to have been prosecuted under the religious protection law passed several years ago.

The law makes it illegal to “insult the feelings of believers”, and has been criticised as a symbol of too strong a bond between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Kremlin.

Speaking to the Times, Krasnov said: “Yury Gargarin said ‘I travelled into space, and I did not see God there’,” referring to a quote attributed to the first person to travel to space.

“And now I’m being charged with insulting the feelings of religious believers? This is an absurd farce. I was in shock when I heard I was being charged.”

The man has warned, speaking to the Washington Times, that the case could “set a precedent”, and that it “could become accepted that it is forbidden to publicly deny the existence of God.”

He was reported to police by two Russian Orthodox Christians with who he had a discussion on the Russian social networking site VKontakte.

After having his flat in Stavropol raided, Krasnov’s trial began in early March and is still ongoing.

Before going on trial, he was made to spend a month in a psychiatric unit.

“No one in their right mind would write anything against Orthodox Christianity and the Russian Orthodox Church,” the judge told Krasnov, according to reports.

The law, passed by the Russian Duma in 2013, has been criticised by Amnesty International as evidence of a “shrinking space for freedom of expression in Russia”.

The bill was passed in July 2013 by the State Duma with 308 votes to 2. The bill gathered the 226 votes necessary to be approved. It was passed following a controversy when members of punk band Pussy Riot were jailed for criticising President Putin in a protest.

In August 2012, Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were jailed for two years for staging an anti-Vladimir Putin protest, with a song that mentioned the country’s persecuted LGBT citizens in a Moscow cathedral on 21 February 2012.

According to the bill which was approved on Tuesday in its second and third readings, insulting the feelings of religious believers, including vandalism, or desecration of holy sites, would be punishable by compulsory labour, up to three years in prison, and/or fines of up to 500,000 rubles (£10,000).

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, who has expressed virulent anti-gay views, has described Russian President Putin as a “miracle from God”.

In 2013 condemned the advance of marriage equality in the West, calling it a symptom of the apocalypse.

The Russian Orthodox Church has been a key supporter of Russia’s anti-gay law, and Patriarch Kirill maintained the Church’s view that homosexuality is a sin – although he has cautioned against punishing people for their sexuality.

Apparently not put off by being jailed, Pussy Riot released a new song criticising Putin in February this year.

More: atheism, Europe, Kirill, Orthodox, Pussy Riot, religious freedom, religious protection, Russia, Vladimir Putin

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