Viktor Krasnov probably didn’t think that a Facebook argument would land him in prison, but it might do just that. Krasnov is on trial in his home city of Stavropool in southern Russia, after a debate on social media that included the statement “there is no God.” He had also previously written “the Bible is a collection of Jewish fairy tales” on a different social networking site a couple of years ago.
Unfortunately in Russia there is a law that allows people to be arrested for “offending believer’s feelings.” The strange-sounding law came about in 2012 when the female pop punk band Pussy Riot were arrested after a performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior church. The group had entered the church when no services were being performed, donned neon colored clothes, and jumped around on the altar before being escorted out by security. They had filmed themselves and the footage later appeared in a music video for their song “Punk Prayer: Mother of God Drive Putin Away”. Less than a month later three of the women were arrested and held without bail. When they finally saw a trial, nearly a year later, the band held that their song and performance was simply a political statement, but the prosecutors on the case said they were trying to “incite religious hatred” against the Orthodox Church. The judge finally determined that they had “crudely undermined the social order” and had shown a “complete lack of respect” for believers, charging them with “premeditated hooliganism performed by an organized group of people motivated by religious hatred or hostility” and sentencing them to two years in prison.
While Krasnov’s atheist Facebooking isn’t quite as riotous as a punk performance in an Orthodox Church, the standard was set. Pavel Chikov, a human rights activist, has taken the case as Krasnov’s lawyer. The trial started on Monday, though charges were filed in the fall of 2015. Krasnov may not be the only one facing prosecution over social media, as Russia’s internet freedom has been deteriorating over the last few years.
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