LGBT Coming Out's "foreign agents" case sent back for re-trial

Today, July 25, 2013, Vasileostrovsky disctrict court of St. Petersburg repealed the decision made by the lower court to fine LGBT organization Coming Out 500 000 rubles for violating the law on "foreign agents", sending the case back to the magistrates’ court for re-trial.

During the meeting, representative of the prosecutor's office could not answer a single question about technicalities of the charges, such as the actual date of the violation (only date of the prosecutor’s inspection was provided), the locality of the charges (the actual “violations” took place in a different district than the location of the trial), etc. All of the defense’s motions that concerned the substance of the case (relating to the invalidity of the inspections, inadmissibility of the evidence used, vagueness of the definition of “political activity”) were dismissed by the judge. At the end, judge Kovin repealed the lower court’s decision and sent the case back for re-trial. The reasons part of the decision will be made public on Wednesday, July 31, but it seems evident that it was based on purely formal grounds.

Lower court trials of both LGBT organization Coming Out and Side by Side LGBT film festival in June of this year proceeded with such violations of legal procedure and principles that it seemed clear the courts were not going to be impartial. Rejecting the prosecution’s case based on violations of formal procedures is the simplest and most obvious path for the judge. Today, we are attempting to analyze the meaning of judge Kovin’s decision. Has he been given directions to halt the proceedings? Did he not want to make a decision that would mar his reputation? Will we now be “let off the hook”, or will the prosecution return to us better prepared, with a case put together less crudely?  

In any case, the fact that there are judges who are able to more or less impartially and objectively examine our case, and the fact that the decision was not pre-made, is for us a positive development.

“We are getting used to existing in the “unknown territory”, being on the forefront of repressions under the “foreign agents” law, not knowing how the “homosexual propaganda” law would be applied.  Every day can bring surprises, and sharp turns of events. We need to stay alert, stay flexible, and be ready to change our tactics at any point, all the while continuing to work to defend the LGBT community of St. Petersburg. We are grateful to our partners for their understanding and willingness to stand by us and continue supporting our work in these uncertain times,” says Polina Andrianova of Coming Out.

The date for the appeal trial for the organization’s director has not yet been set. We will keep you informed.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE

We are happy to announce that with the help of our partners, colleagues and friends, Coming Out was able to raise enough funds to cover the fines of 12 500 EUR for the organization and 7 500 EUR for the organization’s director. We would like to give special thanks to the Norwegian national LGBT organization LLH, the global LGBT movement AllOut, the Finnish national LGBT organization SETA, German LGBT organization LSVD Hamburg, Quarteera Hamburg, Amnesty International and many others, who organized crowdraising campaigns and helped distribute information about our plight. We also want to thank the thousands of LGBT people, straight allies, supporters and friends all around the world who supported us at this time. 

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