Russians fined in blasphemy case

A Moscow court has found the organisers of an art exhibition guilty of inciting religious hatred and fined them 100,000 roubles (?2,000; $3,600) each.

The January 2003 exhibition called “Caution! Religion” was staged by the Sakharov Museum, named after the Soviet-era dissident Andrei Sakharov.

The Russian Orthodox Church had condemned director Yuri Samodurov and his colleague Lyudmila Vasilovskaya.

The court ruling said the show was “openly insulting and blasphemous”.

‘Insulting’ exhibits

It featured an icon with a hole instead of a head, where visitors could show their faces.

There was also a Coca-Cola logo with Jesus’ face shown next to it, with the words: “This is my blood”.

There was also a sculpture of a church made from vodka bottles.

Vandals defaced the exhibits just days after they went on display, but charges against them were later dropped.

Mr Samodurov, a leading human rights activist, insisted he had no intention of insulting believers. He said the case against him was absurd and a direct challenge to freedom of conscience and expression.

His supporters said it also highlighted the growing power and influence of the Orthodox Church in Russia – constitutionally a secular state.

A third defendant, an artist who contributed to the show, was acquitted.

Lawyers for the other defendants vowed to appeal against the verdicts – if necessary to the European Court of Human Rights.

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mar. 28, 2005

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