Feminist and LGBT rights activist on trial in Russia

A prosecutor has asked Russian activist Yulia Tsvetkova to serve three years and two months in prison in a closed trial on absurd ‘pornography’ charges.

The activist from Komsomolsk-on-Amur in Russia’s Far East defends women’s rights and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Russia. The charges against Yulia relate to the public group she administered on social media to share body-positive artwork depicting female anatomy.

During the 31 months of investigation and trial, the authorities raided Tsvetkova’s apartment, kept her under house arrest for four months, Posted administrative fines and considered open another criminal case against her. Authorities detained and a fine many activists, including feminist activists, who picketed in solidarity with Tsvetkova. The verdict is expected in July.

On June 3, the Ministry of Justice added Tsvetkova to the list of “foreign agents”, a toxic label used by authorities to harass and penalize critics. The prosecutor asked the court to add it to his “personal characteristics” in his file.

The charges against Tsvetkova have no legal basis. It took four attempts for law enforcement to get the prosecutor to approve the indictment against her.

The case against Tsvetkvoa is a flagrant violation of freedom of expression protected by international law. If found guilty, she will no longer be able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge the injustice, as Russia descends into isolation amid its war on Ukraine.

On the very day of Tsvetkova’s trial, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Repressive Russian law on “foreign agents” to violate freedom of association. Russian authorities declared they would not comply with court rulings following Russia’s rush Withdrawal of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The trial against Yulia Tsvetkova highlights the crusade against non-compliance amid growing crackdown on any form of disagreement with official rhetoric. Even in this context, the absurdity of the charges would be laughable, were it not for the hardship they imposed on Tsvetkova and the real risk of imprisonment she faces. The authorities should immediately drop the charges against her.

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