Russian activists lose case against Mayor of Moscow

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A Russian judge has thrown out an appeal by Gay Pride organisers that the Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzkhov was guilty of calling gay people “Satanic.”

The court decided he should not face charges of slander as his comments described the concept of a gay rights march as Satanic and not its participants.

The decision was upheld from a previous district court judgment that Luzhkov did not use the term against the organisers and people who were part of the parade but rather the event itself.

The Tverskoi court judge Natalya Makarova, who considered the case in the first instance, was said be one of the most homophobic judges in Russia, according to gay rights activists in the country.

In January, during his Christmas reading speech at the Kremlin, Luzkhov said:

“Last year there was unprecedented pressure on Moscow in order to conduct a gay parade here, which can only be called a Satanic gathering. We did not allow this parade and will not allow in the future.”

He was talking about the ban on Moscow Pride events in 2006, repeated in 2007, which were held anyway amid scenes of anti-gay violence and religious and nationalist protests.

The organiser of Moscow Pride, Nicolas Alexeyev, claimed that Luzkhov’s comments were meant to insult and discriminate against gay people in general and started legal proceedings.

“It is absolutely clear that the aim of Moscow mayor was not only to swear the human rights event that we wanted to conduct in May last year and this year but also to show us, as organizers of this event, in unethical and immoral light.

“Unfortunately, Moscow courts are fully controlled by city authorities and are not independent in their decisions.”

The gay activists who defied the ban were faced with violence from protesters chanting anti-gay slogans as well as 1000 riot police who were aiming to stop the celebrations.

Ken Livingstone condemned the violence, claiming the ban was “reactionary,” saying: “The Mayor of Moscow should uphold the right of gays and lesbians to demonstrate peacefully.”

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was at the 2006 parade and saw the violence first hand, commenting for at the time:

“The Mayor’s homophobia created the atmosphere which gave a green light to the fascists to attack the Moscow Pride participants. The anti-gay violence and intimidation we experienced shows precisely why Moscow Pride is necessary.

“The repression of a handful of lesbian and gay protesters signifies the fear and weakness of the Russian state. We had a moral and political victory, forcing the Moscow authorities to unleash forces of repression comparable with the bad old days of the Soviet era.”

Organisers of Moscow Pride had wanted Mr Luzkhov to refute his statements concerning the gay parade and pay symbolic compensation of about 1,000 roubles, the equivalent of about £20.