The Russian LGBT rights group Coming Out reports today on the continuing harassment of activists there, which includes fining organizations as unregistered “foreign agents” if they receive any financial support from abroad and engage in political activity of any kind.
Today, Coming Out’s director was found guilty for failing to register the organization as a “foreign agent”, and was fined 300 000 rubles (7 500 euro). Together with the 500 000 rubles (12 500 euro) imposed on the organization on June 19 of this year, Coming Out now “owes” 20 000 euro to the Russian government.
Today’s hearing was unprecedented, since none of the supporters of the organization were allowed into the courtroom. More than 30 nationalists blocked the entrance to the courthouse, not letting anyone through, including the defense lawyer Sergei Golubok. Only after several phone calls and interference of the court security, could the defense attorney and a witness pass inside, with the rest of supporters remaining on the street. In response to the lawyer’s demand to ensure public access to the trial, the judge replied “everyone who wanted to get in, got in.”
At the same time, our opponents lined up in front of the entrance, blocking it by clasping each other’s arms, some yelling “I will kill you” and other threats directed at LGBT activists. They were joined by Christian Orthodox priests, giving out interviews. The police watching from a distance did nothing to interfere.
The meeting lasted over 4 hours. Defense lawyer Sergei Golubok insisted on dismissal of the case, for both formal and substantive reasons, such as the prosecutor’s investigation having no legal basis. “The prosecutor was not able to refute any of the defense’s arguments, in fact, the side of the prosecution was taken up by the judge, which is becoming characteristic for the “foreign agent” cases,” – said Sergey Golubok.
“We are not foreign, or anyone’s, agents. We work to protect the rights and interests of one of the most oppressed and marginalized groups of citizens in Russia, and to consider this as acting in the interests of a foreign state is absurd. Of course, we will appeal this decision in the higher court, and will go all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, if necessary,”- commented Olga Lenkova, Coming Out activist.
Today, 2 out of 5 organizations convicted for acting as “foreign agents” are LGBT organizations, which is hardly a coincidence. Viewed in the context of the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” law, this “tailored” application of the “foreign agents” law to LGBT NGOs is an attempt to put an end to any form of LGBT advocacy in Russia.
In order to withstand financial hardships, Coming Out has launched a fundraising campaign:
Your help will enable us to continue defending ourselves against the misleading and offensive label of “foreign agents” in the Russian and international courts, while continuing to work for empowerment of LGBT people in St. Petersburg and Russia.
Thank you for your continued attention to the struggles of LGBT in Russia, your continued support and solidarity.
- Russian LGBT rights group under attack as ‘foreign agent’ (76crimes.com)
- Russian gay film festival: 12,500-euro fine as ‘foreign agent’ (76crimes.com)
- Antigay Climate in Russia Bad for Olympics, Rights Group Says (advocate.com)
- Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws: The Politics and Consequences of a Moral Panic (thedisorderofthings.com)
- NGOs find loopholes in Foreign Agents’ Law, officials urge corrections (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Russia passes strict ‘gay propaganda’ law (76crimes.com)