Yuri Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev condemned to a fine for “inciting national and religious hatred”

Press release

Today, the Taganskiy District Court in Moscow condemned Yuri Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev to a fine of respectively 200 000 rubles (approximately 6,5 thousand dollars) and 150 000 rubles (4,8 thousand dollars). Messrs. Samodurov and Yerofeyev announced they intended to appeal. “FIDH condemns this verdict which shows the grave and constant violation of freedom of expression in Russia”, declared Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH president.

In May 2008, Messrs. Yuri Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev were charged with "inciting hatred or enmity" and "denigration of human dignity" for organising a contemporary art exhibition at the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Civic Centre(1) in Moscow in 2007. The charges were brought under Article 282(2)(b) of the Criminal Code. The trial of the two men started in Taganskiy District Court in Moscow in June 2009, and the last hearing was held on June 21, 2010.

The prosecution claimed that Mr. Yuri Samodurov, then Director of the Sakharov Museum and Andrei Yerofeyev, then Head of the Department for Contemporary Art at the State Tretiakov Gallery, had arranged an exhibition in such a way that it denigrates Christianity, and especially the Russian Orthodox faith, and incites hatred against Orthodox and other Christians.

The Forbidden Art 2006 exhibition had displayed a number of works of art, including by some of Russia’s most renowned contemporary artists.
The indictment, approved by the Taganskiy District Public Prosecutor in Moscow, stated that “at the exhibition works were displayed containing images that were degrading and insulting to the Christian religion and to citizens professing that religion, to Orthodox citizens in particular”. The investigation commissioned philologists, psychologists and other experts to conduct appraisals of the exhibits.

One of them, an expert on iconography, stated: “the negative impulses emanating from the exhibits might provoke aggression or, at the very least, lack of respect towards the religious objects displayed in the exhibition or towards any other objects of religious cults”. With no further explanations of any kind, the expert concluded that these sorts of works of art made people want to set fire to the homes of religious leaders and to murder them and their children.

In June 2008, Mr. Andrei Yerofeyev was sacked from the Tretyakov Gallery. In August, less than two months later, Mr. Samodurov decided to resign his post as the Director of the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Civic Centre. In July 2008, the criminal case went to court, but in late August proceedings were suspended due to Andrei Yerofeyev’s being ill.

In June 2009, it was reported that during the trial, only one witness for the prosecution stated that he had simply "glanced" at the exhibition. Others declared that they had not visited it. They asserted nevertheless that the exhibition incited hatred.

FIDH recalls that in 2005, M. Samodurov had already been condemned by Taganskiy District Court to a fine of 100 000 rubles under Article 282 (2) after organising the exhibition “Beware, religion” in 2003 (2).
FIDH believes that Messrs. Yuri Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev were prosecuted with the only aim to sanction their freedom of expression. FIDH therefore calls upon the Russian authorities, should Messrs. Samodurov and Yerofeyev appeal the verdict, to drop the charges against them, and to conform in all circumstances with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as international and regional human rights instruments ratified by the Russian Federation.

(1) The Andrei Sakharov Museum and Civic Centre is both a civic human rights centre and a non-governmental museum. It has the legal status of an independent cultural institution, and is registered as an international NGO. It has had more operational freedom than museums – which are operating under stricter regulations – and than other non-governmental structures.

(2)Annual Report of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, 2005, p 382.

Press Contacts : Karine Appy/Fabien Maitre + 33 1 43 55 14 12 / + 33 1 43 55 90 19

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