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Home News Russia backs criminal charges for insulting believers

Russia backs criminal charges for insulting believers

Published on 25/09/2012

Russia's parliament on Tuesday called for criminal charges for those who insult believers, citing the uproar caused by punk group Pussy Riot's performance of a protest song in a cathedral.

All the party factions, including the Communists, backed in a preliminary debate a call for tougher charges for those who “insult the religious feelings of citizens.”

“We are all sick to death of the story of Pussy Riot,” said the head of the parliament’s religious organisations committee, Yaroslav Nilov, at the session, quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency.

He also cited recent killings of Islamic clerics as well as the daubing of swastikas and “Satanic symbols” on synagogues and churches, which he called attempts to “destabilise the situation” in the country.

There are currently no criminal penalties for those insulting the feelings of believers. The charge only exists as a non-criminal offence with a mild maximum fine of 1,000 rubles ($32).

After the preliminary vote, lawmakers were set to submit amendments to legislation, with reports saying they could call for sentences of up to five years.

The vote came after President Vladimir Putin said this month Russia was obliged to protect feelings of religious believers in a predominantly Orthodox Christian country.

A court last month sentenced three Pussy Riot members to two years in a penal colony for their anti-Putin performance in a Moscow cathedral.

The three young women were set Monday to appeal their sentences for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, a criminal charge that lawyers criticised as inappropriate.

They argued that prosecutors failed to prove religious hatred was the motive of the brief performance of a song critising Putin’s close relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.

The women insisted in court that it was a political protest.

Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov said he backed the measures.

“Today a wave is swelling that is against humanity, against human values, and it is on a scale that is simply frightening,” said the leader of the party, whose Soviet predecessor created an official ideology of atheism.

The Soviets destroyed the original building of the central cathedral where Pussy Riot performed, replacing it with an open-air swimming pool. It was rebuilt in the 1990s with many public donations.