Thursday, April 30, 2009

Moscow authorities threaten gay pridegoers with arrest

(Moscow) Moscow city officials have threatened to arrest anyone participating in a gay pride parade this year.

Moscow Pride had announced pride this year will take place on May 16th, but this week a City Hall spokesman said any attempt to hold a parade would be “firmly dealt with.”

“There have been no official applications for permission to hold gay parades during the May holidays and all attempts to hold such events will be firmly stopped by the authorities,” Leonid Krutakov told the Novosti news agency.

May 16th coincides with the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest which is being hosted by the city and will be broadcast throughout Europe. Pride organizers have called for finalists to express support for pride during the telecast.

Laws against homosexuality were repealed at the end of the Communist era, but Moscow city officials have refused to allow gays to hold a pride march for years.

Moscow Pride has seven cases already pending before the European Court of Human Rights.

The latest was filed against President Dmitry Medvedev. The others involve Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

Despite Mayor Luzhkov’s refusal to grant a parade permit last year, the third Moscow Pride took place on Sunday, June 1. Gay activists picketed the monument to the Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky and then hung a huge banner from an apartment in front of Moscow City Hall.

The banner read: “Rights to gays and lesbians! Homophobia of Moscow Mayor should be prosecuted.”

In 2007, the mayor refused a parade license citing security concerns. Gays, many of them from the Europen Union, marched anyway. About 20 people were arrested at the May 27 parade, including Alexeyev, two European parliamentarians and British gay advocate Peter Tatchell.

Charges against the foreigners were later dropped and Alexeyev was fined $1000 rubles - about $40.

AIso in 2007, a Moscow court tossed out a lawsuit accusing Lushkov of libel over claims he made that gay rights marches were “satanic.” The court ruled that Moscow Pride leaders had failed to prove that the remarks were incendiary or intended to vilify gays in general.

Last January, a Moscow judge acquitted 13 gay activists arrested last month for staging a protest outside a polling station during national elections. But last month, a Moscow court said the mayor had not exceeded his authority in banning gay demonstrations including pride marches.

And last December Luzhkov said he will continue to ban gay pride parades in the city to prevent spreading HIV/AIDS.

“We have banned and will continue to forbid this propaganda by sexual minorities, as they could turn out to be one of the factors in the spread of HIV infections,” Luzhkov told an international AIDS conference.

“Certain homegrown democrats believe that sexual minorities can be a primary indicator and symbol of democracy, but we will forbid the dissemination of these opinions in the future as well.”

The European Court is slow to take up cases. It could be more than a year before any of the lawsuits is heard.

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