» 04/11/2013 RUSSIA Duma gives first green light to anti-blasphemy law in Russia by Nina Achmatova Approved by Members on first hearing, the draft law against attacks on religious sentiment hardens penalties with up to five years in prison for those who commit sacrilegious acts. According to surveys, the Russians are in favor, but for human rights activists it sets a dangerous precedent.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The State
Duma (lower house of the Russian parliament) has approved the draft bill of the
so-called "law against blasphemy and acts which offend the religious
sentiment". The document, approved on 9 April, (criticized by human rights
activists, but supported by the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate and most
influential minority communities) provides for stiffer penalties for those who
offend religious values or commit actions deemed sacrilegious
in places of worship.
Supporters of the bill say it aims to defend traditional Russian values , where the Church and religion - they say - are being targeted by a visible
"anti-religious propaganda organized by enemies outside the country."
Pussy Riot, the band feminist that staged a brief anti-Putin prayer punk in the
cathedral of Moscow are used as an example of this theory. Two of its members
are currently serving two years in prison in a labor camp as a result. During
the trial they were accused of having offended the religious feelings of the
faithful. For which
the girls apologized, saying that it was a protest of a political nature.
For Yaroslav Nilov - head of
the Duma's Social and Religious Commission and co-author of the bill - the case
Pussy Riot shows that the traditional beliefs of the country need adequate
legislation to protect them. Nilov, a member of the nationalist Liberal
Democratic Party, said that "no one wants more gulags."
The draft also increases fines from the current 1,000 rubles (32 dollars) to
300 thousand rubles (10 thousand dollars) for "publically insulting the
faith and humiliation during liturgical services." The crime could carry
up to three years' imprisonment or 200 hours of community service. For the
desecration and destruction of religious objects, places of worship and
pilgrimage, the fines will range from 100 to 500 thousand rubles, up to 400
hours mandatory social service or up to five years in prison.
The Presidential Council for
Human Rights had already criticized the vague wording of the proposed law
against blasphemy last November, which could result in many miscarriages of
Responding to criticism Mikhail Markelov - deputy of the ruling United Russia
party and another author of the draft law - recited data of a survey of the
State institute VTsIOM, according to which 82% of Russians are in favor of the
bill , especially after a succession of acts of vandalism against religious
symbols: soiling of icons, crosses axed and chopped up in several parts of the