Russian court overturns conviction of trans woman jailed for sharing manga porn
A Russian trans woman who was sentenced to three years in prison for sharing erotic manga drawings on social media has had her guilty verdict overturned by a court.
Her conviction for sharing Japanese manga-style drawings featuring nude cartoon characters was denounced by human-rights advocates, who were concerned that she would not survive being jailed in a men’s prison.
The 53-year-old woman, known to friends as Michelle, has been on hormones for a couple of years but is still legally male. This means she would have been sent to a men’s prison had the sentence not been thrown out, according to CBS News.
On Wednesday (January 22), she was released from a local detention facility for men after a higher court ruled in favour of her appeal, according to online comments posted by her legal adviser.
“The verdict has been canceled as unfair, the case was sent for a retrial,” said lawyer Maksim Olenichev, who was part of her defence team.
The defence team had argued that there were no defined victims in the case, as the depicted “minors” were cartoon characters whose ages could not be established.
Michelle was convicted of “distributing pornography depicting minors” in her hometown of Bryansk, a provincial city 200 miles southwest of Moscow, last November.
Police had opened a criminal investigation against her in 2018, four years after she posted erotic manga drawings – also known as hentai – on social media. Her profile, on VK – a Russian equivalent to Facebook – had been inactive for at least a year when investigators opened a case into her sharing of hentai.
The images she shared were determined by the investigation to have been used to “meet persons of non-traditional sexual orientation”.
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The drawings Michelle shared were determined to be of minors following an “expert examination”, which concluded that the characters had “not yet reached 14 years of age”.
It was also claimed that a boy depicted in the drawings was 12 – however, the characters were not actually assigned ages by the artist.
As a result of the case, Michelle lost her job as an endocrinologist at a children’s hospital in Russia.
Human Rights Watch called the charges against Michelle “bogus” when they were first made public.
The expert group that conducted the examination of the hentai, the Center for Sociocultural Expert Examinations, has also provided support for cases against punk band Pussy Riot.
Michelle will remain free until her retrial. A date is yet to be set.