Gay activists cleared by Russian court

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A group of LGBT rights campaigners arrested at a polling station in Russia during December’s elections have been acquitted.

More than two dozen activists came to vote at the polling station to protest against the electoral process and the homophobic stance of all political parties including President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia.

Mayor Luzhkov, the city’s homophobic Mayor, headed the Moscow list for the party and cast his vote at the polling station an hour after the arrests.

Thirteen activists were detained inside the polling station, among them the organisers of Moscow Pride Nicolas Alexeyev, Nicolas Baev and Alexei Davydov.

They had been arrested for attempting to conduct an “illegal gathering.”

Mr Luzhkov has banned the last two gay pride marches in Moscow calling them a “work of Satan.”

Mr Alexeyev was arrested after he wrote “No to homophobes, no to Luzhkov” on his ballot.

In Russia, spoiling the ballot is a form of protest.

Today a Moscow magistrates court ruled that none of the arrested protesters would be prosecuted.

Two police officers who allegedly took part in detaining the activists were questioned by magistrates.

They were unable to say what the protesters did inside the polling station and claimed they were following orders from senior officers in making arrests.

The court observed that the activists did not have any agitation materials with them and were not carrying placards and concluded that there was no picketing held as understood by Russian law.

Mr Alexeyev said: “This is our first considerable victory in the courts in the legal fight with the Moscow authorities and the Moscow Mayor personally.

“The 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 acquitted activists are considering suing the police for illegal arrest and detention.

President Putin’s United Russia party overwhelmingly won the parliamentary elections on 2nd December, though the Moscow list of the party got slightly less votes than in the country as a whole.