Metro Weekly

Teenager found guilty of violating Russia’s law against “gay propaganda”

Maxim Neverov's lawyer says authorities hindered his client's right to a fair trial

Maxim Neverov – Photo: Russian LGBT Network.

A 16-year-old Russian has been found guilty of spreading “propaganda of homosexuality among minors” and fined 50,000 rubles for publishing pictures on a social networking site, according to the Russian LGBT Network.

Maxim Neverov, of Biysk, in Russia’s Western Altai Krai province, was accused of posting “inappropriate” pictures celebrating or condoning homosexuality on the social network “VKontakte.”

Russian authorities claimed that Neverov published pictures of partially nude men “whose appearance had the characteristics of propaganda of homosexual relations,” according to an “expert opinion.”

Neverov was charged under Russia’s 2013 law that prohibits any distribution of material that condones homosexuality, portrays it as “normal,” or presents it in a positive or value-neutral light. The law is intended to protect minors from being exposed to any information that contradicts or undermines “traditional family values.”

The police complaint was filed against Neverov on July 24. According to the Russian LGBT Network, which represented the teenager, when the police officer was filing the report, he never allowed Neverov to consult a lawyer. 

The Russian LGBT Network has speculated that the teen was targeted by authorities for taking part in and helping to organize a “Gays or Putin” demonstration in May that protested the Kremlin’s role in the persecution of LGBTQ people.

As part of the protest, Neverov submitted 12 applications to Biysk city administrators to get permission for a public event. The administration refused to issue any permits or approve the events, whether they were for or against LGBTQ rights, and for or against Putin. But the idea of a pro-LGBTQ event sparked controversy, even prompting local officials to outline ways they could “take action” to respond to the proposed demonstration.

Artem Lapov, Neverov’s lawyer, maintains that the guilty verdict violates the right to freedom of expression and has appealed the decision. He also noted during the trial that there were numerous procedural violations that hindered his client from receiving a fair trial.

For instance, although the meeting of the Commission on Minors and the Protection of Minors’ Rights was public, but visitors, including Neverov’s friends, were not allowed to attend it. Attendees were barred from taking photo or video of the proceedings. Additionally, the commission failed to prove that Neverov had actually posted the pictures in question.

The commission is expected to release its rationale for finding Neverov guilty, and make a decision as to the status of his appeal, in the coming weeks.

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