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(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International today condemns the Russian government's fining, under a new St. Petersburg law, of a prominent LGBTI rights activist for spreading "gay propaganda" after the activist picketed city hall with a poster that read "homosexuality is not a perversion."
Nikolai Alexeyev announced today the news of his conviction via Twitter: "Who can pay my fine for gay propaganda in St. Petersburg? 5000 rub, 130 euros, 180 usd."
Alexeyev was convicted under an offense created in March when St Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, followed the lead of regions such as Arkhangelsk and Riazan and introduced anti-"gay propaganda" legislation. Amnesty International, which at the time urged St Petersburg not to enact such legislation, has condemned the conviction.
"Such laws threaten freedom of expression and fuel discrimination against the city's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community," said Europe and Central Asia director John Dalhuisen. "Furthermore, it contributes to a climate of hostility and violence toward LGBTI individuals."
The new laws effectively ban LGBTI public events and demonstrations under the pretext of protecting minors. Even informational leaflets on rights or assistance or available advice can be severely restricted.
There are concerns that the legislation violates the rights of freedom of expression and assembly, as well as the right to non-discrimination and equality before the law, guaranteed by international human rights treaties to which Russia is a party.
Amnesty International is particularly concerned that plans for laws aimed at banning "propaganda of homosexuality" are underway in other regions, including Samara and Novosibirsk.
A similar bill was introduced in the Russian state Duma at the end of March.
Nikolai Alexeyev has said that he will appeal the decision. If a higher court in St Petersburg upholds Friday's decision, he will go to Russia's Constitutional Court and then to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Moscow's former mayor Yuri Luzhkov has described gay parades as "satanic;" his successor Sergei Sobyanin has said he disapproves of gay gatherings because they can offend the religious beliefs of many Russians.
A report from Reuters found that around 17 gay rights activists were arrested in St. Petersburg by Russian police under the “homosexual propaganda” law after participating in a May Day celebration.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.