Court setback for Russian gay activists over ban on Tambov march

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Courts in the Russian region of Tambov have rejected futher action aganist a homophobic politician and dismissed a ban on a gay rights march.

On Thursday November 13th Tambov regional court dismissed an appeal by gay activists against the decision of Lenin district court of Tambov that there was no criminal for the governor of Tambov region, Oleg Betin, to answer.

In July the State Office of Public Prosecutor of the Russian Federation decided not to start criminal proceedings.

Following a scandal that led to the arrest of the mayor of Tambov, 480km south east of Moscow, Mr Betin made a series of homophobic statements, including one that seemed to call for violence against gays.

Interfax news agency reported that state prosecutors decided against bringing charges as there is “nothing criminal” about his comments.

They also concluded that homosexuals are not members of a particular social group against whom hatred can be incited. Gay rights campaigners said they intend to pursue the case against Mr Betin.

Also on Thursday the Lenin District Court in Tambov rejected an appeal against a ban on gay rights marches by the Tambov City Administration.

The proposed picketing was banned due to “numerous letters of protest” received from various public organisations, who claimed the event was “a propaganda of homosexuality” and would spoil the image of Tambov as an Orthodox city.

The applications to conduct the picket and the march on 10th and 18th October were submitted to the Tambov City Administration on 6th October in full accordance with the Russian law.

The City Administration said that in accordance with the law on local government it was obliged to listen to the views of the majority of citizens who were against the conduct of the proposed public event.

The authorities stressed that they were unable to provide security for the participants of the event.

The ban on the 18th October march was issued because it breaches the “rights of drivers and could lead to accidents on the city roads.”

According to Russian federal law the authorities were obliged to offer the organisers alternative route or time for the march.

One of the organisers of the protests, Nicolas Alexeyev, said after the court hearing:

“If the regional court also supports city authorities, the case will be sent to the European Court of Human Rights.”

There are several legal cases brought by Russian gay activists about the ban of public events in Moscow already pending in Strasbourg. Two of the cases concern the bans on Moscow Pride events in 2006 and 2007.