RUSSIAN ACTIVISTS ACQUITTED

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The 13 gay activists arrested in a Moscow polling station on December 2 during the Russian state Dumas election for “protest voting” were acquitted on Friday by a judge.

The 13, including Moscow Gay Pride organisers Nikolai Alekseev, Nikolai Baev and Alexey Davydov, were among more than two dozen activists who voted in a polling station where the homophobic mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov votes.

They were protesting against the electoral process and the homophobic position of all the political parties taking part – including President Vladimir Putin’s “United Russia” of which Mr. Luzhkov is a member. Mayor Luzhkov has previously banned two Moscow Prides in as many years.

The group were detained inside the polling station by special security and police and taken to Tverskoi district police station where they spent seven hours. They were charged with conducting a picket without notifying the Moscow authorities.

According to Russian law this is an administrative offence which carries a fine of up to 2,000 roubles (40 UK pounds).

Judge Larisa Bogdanovich agreed with the prosecution that by detaining the activists for more than three hours, the police seriously breached the Russian Administrative Code and acquitted the 13.

The Moscow court questioned two police officers who allegedly took part in the detaining of the activists.

According to the Court, the police officers were unable to say what the detained persons did inside the polling station. They said that by arresting people they were only following orders.

The Court observed that the activists did not have any protest materials with them nor did they demand anything from the authorities by using placards.

The Court concluded that there was no picketing which means that the persons detained did not conduct an illegal public gathering.

“This is our first considerable victory in the courts in the legal fight with the Moscow authorities and the Moscow Mayor personally,” commented Mr. Alekseev, who wrote on his ballot paper “No to homophobes! No to Luzhkov!”

“Lawlessness of the authorities can be witnessed during all our actions – but up to now we never won in court. This is a positive signal.”

The arrested Russian activists are considering a legal suit for damages against the Moscow police for illegal arrest and detention.

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