A court in northwestern Russia has sentenced a former associate of jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny to 2 1/2 years in prison for “distributing pornography” after he shared a video by the German rock band Rammstein in 2014, in a case Amnesty International described as “utterly absurd.”
The Lomonosovsky District Court in Arkhangelsk handed down its verdict against Andrei Borovikov, his lawyer told Russian independent media on April 29.
Amnesty International said Borovikov -- a former coordinator of Navalny's Arkhangelsk regional headquarters -- was being “punished solely for his activism, not his musical taste.”
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.
“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 is no stranger 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.