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First activist convicted under St Petersburg anti-gay law

Gay rights campaigner Nikolay Alexeyev is satisfied with judge's decision, saying he will now press for the cancellation of the law

First activist convicted under St Petersburg anti-gay law

A Russian gay activist has become the first to be convicted under the controversial anti-gay law in St Petersburg.

The accused said he was satisfied, as the sentence will now allow him to press for the cancellation of the law itself.

The law, which makes people criminals if they discuss homosexuality in public, was instated in late February 2012.

Gay rights campaigner Nikolay Alexeyev was fined the maximum amount of 5000 rubles (£104, $168, €128) for an individual. He was prosecuted for ‘spreading homosexual propaganda’ among minors.

He said the judge opened a ‘Pandora’s box’, and Alexeyev pledged to appeal against the decision. He says if necessary, he will go to the European Court of Human Rights.

Alexeyev, 34, a lawyer, was charged for holding up a banner outside the city hall that read ‘Homosexuality is not perverted. What’s perverted is hockey on grass and ballet on ice’.

He said his conviction was ‘propaganda to minors’ even though there were no children around him, and said police gathered witness statements from people sitting in a nearby park who had not even seen the poster.

Alexeyev had previously unsuccessfully campaigned for the right to hold a Gay Pride parade in Moscow.

The law, which was signed by Governer Georgy Poltavchenko, effectively prohibits public discussion of LGBT issues. Similar rules have also been introduced in the country’s Ryazan, Arkhangelsk and Kostroma regions.

One of the biggest LGBT organisations in St Petersburg, Coming Out, has blasted the anti-gay hate law.

Polina Savchenko, director of Coming Out, said: ‘This radical law undermines the great legacy of our city’s past and future.’

She added: ‘This law installs a culture of censorship in what was once Russia’s most cosmopolitan city and is a huge blow to the freedom of expression in Russia. At a time when people all over the world are opening up and coming out, this law puts Russia back in the closet.’  

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