A court in northwestern Russia is set to deliver its verdict on April 28 in the case against an activist accused of “distributing pornography” for sharing a video by the German rock band Rammstein in 2014.
Amnesty International called the case against Andrei Borovikov, who faces three years in prison if convicted, as “utterly absurd,” saying he was being “punished solely for his activism, not his musical taste.”
Borovikov was formerly the coordinator of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s Arkhangelsk regional headquarters.
Describing Borovikov’s prosecution as “a mockery of justice,” the London-based human rights group’s Moscow office director, Natalia Zviagina, called for all charges against him to be dropped.
“The Russian authorities should be focusing on turning around the spiraling human rights crisis they have created, not devising ludicrous new ways of prosecuting and silencing their critics,” Zviagina said in a statement ahead of the verdict.
In 2014, Borovikov shared a music video for Rammstein’s song titled Pussy on the Russian social network VKontakte.
More than six years later, in September 2020, the activist was charged with “production and distribution of pornography.”
Prosecutors have requested a three-year sentence in a high security penal colony if Borovikov is found guilty by the Lomonosovsky District Court in Arkhangelsk.
“This is not the first time the Russian authorities have used an overbroad definition of ‘pornography’ as a pretext for locking up their critics,” Zviagina said, citing the case of Yulia Tsvetkova, an LGBT activist from Russia's Far East who stood trial earlier this month on pornography charges over her drawings of women’s bodies.
“It is astonishing that cases like this even make it to court,” Zviagina said.
The music video posted by Borovikov came to the authorities’ attention six months ago when a former volunteer at his office informed the police. Amnesty International said it suspected the volunteer was employed as an agent provocateur to help fabricate the case.
The prosecution said the video had been seen by “not fewer than two people” and ordered “a sexological and cultural examination” of the clip, before experts found it to be of “pornographic nature” and “not containing artistic value.”
Rammstein are no strangers to controversy.
In Belarus, the Council for Public Morals in 2010 protested against Rammstein's concerts in the country that year, saying the band's shows were "open propaganda of homosexuality, masochism, and other forms of perversions, violence, cruelty, and vulgarism."
In 2019, a man in Belarus was charged with producing and distributing pornographic materials for posting a clip in 2014 of the band's video Pussy, which showed graphic sex scenes.
That same year, a video for the group's song Deutschland showed band members dressed as concentration camp prisoners, sparking outrage, especially among Jewish groups.