On Monday the 22th, four Dutch activists – a filming crew led by Kris van den Veen from the Dutch organization “LGBT Groningen” – were supposed to face the Lenin regional court in Murmansk, Russia. They had been in Russia for about a week to film for a documentary on LGBT rights. In Murmansk, they were participating in the forum “Youth for Human Rights Camp” that took place on the 20th and 21st of July. The forum was disrupted by the police and representatives of the Russian Federal Migration Service, who raided the place to question the Dutch activists. The filming crew was detained, and police records were written against them for violating visa regulations and for “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors”.
The activists’ visas had been issued for a purpose of ‘cultural relations’, but participation in a human rights forum and filming interviews with LGBT people were identified by the Migration Service as incompliant with this purpose. The Migration Service fined the activists 3000 rubles (approximately 75 euros) each and banned them from entering the country for three years.
The police seized the filmed interviews and discovered minors among the interviewees, which became grounds for charges of ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.’
The court hearing on 22 July was cancelled, because the court sent all the case materials back to the district police office allegedly due to mistakes in the format of the protocols. Kris van der Veen and his team left Russia and safely arrived back to the Netherlands yesterday.
However, it is still possible that the case will be given way: the Russian law provides for a two-month period to initiate the hearings. If the charges of ‘propaganda’ will still be heard in court, it will be the first de facto legal application of the so-called ‘gay propaganda’ law. The Russian LGBT Network is ready to represent the interests of the Dutch activists.