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Side by Side LGBT Film Festival First to Go to Trial in Saint Petersburg Concerning ‘Foreign Agents’ Law.
On 24th May, 2013 at 15.30 Side by Side LGBT Film Festival will contest at the local magistrates court, No 206 (14 Kazanskaya Street) allegations drawn up by the prosecutor accusing the organization of violating Article 19.34 of the administrative code relating to the conduct of non-commercial organizations and their status as ‘foreign agents’. In the event Side by Side is found guilty the organization is faced with a fine of 500,000 Rubles (12,500 Euros).
In recent weeks hundreds of NGOs across Russia have been faced with checks into their activities. In Saint Petersburg alone 40 organizations were visited by officials from the Ministry of Justice, tax inspectors and police. While two other NGOs - LGBT Organization Coming Out and Memorial – are also awaiting hearings concerning their failure to register as a ‘Foreign Agent’ numerous other organizations were issued with warnings that if they received funds from abroad and were involved in what the prosecutor deemed as ‘political activity’ legal proceedings would also be taken against them in the future.
Concerning Side by Side LGBT Film Festival the prosecutor cited two accounts of ‘political activity’: firstly the publication of a brochure: The Worldwide LGBT Movement: Local Practices to Global Politics and secondly, participation in the social awareness campaign: “Let’s Stop the Homophobic Bill Together.” Notably, both these activities were implemented prior to the 21 November, 2012 when the law came into force. The evidence presented by the prosecutor is peppered with errors and based on very flimsy and insubstantial evidence. Any judge looking objectively at this information would automatically throw the case out of the court. If the judge’s decision at tomorrow’s hearing proves otherwise, however, it is proof that the case against the festival is politically motivated, a clear attempt to silence its invaluable work and further confirmation that the Russian courts are not a place for justice.
The hearing will take place on 24th May, 2013 at 15.30 at the local magistrates court, No 206, 14 Kazanskaya Street, Saint Petersburg. Representing the festival is lawyer Dmitry Bartenev.
Manny de Guerre
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