Russian is convicted of ‘gay propaganda’ crime

A RUSSIAN gay rights activist has been convicted of spreading “gay propaganda” among minors in the first such ruling in Russia’s modern history.

A city court in St Petersburg yesterday fined Nikolai Alexeyev 5,000 rubles ($170) for breaching the law, which was controversially introduced by councillors in Russia’s second-largest city in February. He will appeal the decision.

Gay rights activists say the legislation could be used to ban public demonstrations.

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Alexeyev was briefly detained last month after he picketed the city hall in St Petersburg with a poster which said that “homosexuality is not a perversion”.

He said the judge has not presented the grounds for her decision, and that they will only be available next week.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay sentiment remains strong. Alexeyev and other activists have petitioned Moscow authorities for permission to stage a gay pride parade, but have been denied.

Moscow’s previous mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, described gay parades as “satanic”; his successor Sergei Sobyanin has said he disapproves of gay gatherings because they could offend the religious beliefs of many Russians.

Alexeyev said he would go to Russia’s constitutional court and then to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if a higher court in St Petersburg upholds yesterday’s ruling.