Side by Side LGBT Film Festivals Loses Appeal and Found Guilty for Violating ‘Foreign Agents’ Law. On 26th July, 2013 Judge E.V Botantsova of the Kuybyshevskiy District Court, Saint Petersburg returned a guilty verdict to the appeal made by the Side by Side LGBT Film Festival concerning their status as a ‘foreign agent’. This was the first appeal made by Side by Side to the higher district court to the decision passed by the lower magistrates court on 6th June, 2013 which also found Side bySide in breach of the ‘foreign agents’ law, finding the organization €12,500. The court’s decision comes into effect from today and Side by Side has a period of 2 months to pay the fine.
Appeal hearings opened on the afternoon of 25th July, 2013 with defence lawyers, Dmitry Bartenev and Sergey Golubok presenting 2 hours of solid and incontrovertible argument which challenged not only the legality of the checks carried out by the prosecutor but the validity of the evidence presented by the prosecutor to convict Side by Side as well as raising issue with the very legitimacy of the law itself bringing attention to its wording and lack of definition as to what actually constitutes as “political activity.”
When asked by the Judge to respond to these points raised the prosecutor simply retorted with weak generalizations and mumbled incoherently giving the impression that the court hearing and issues relating to law were far beyond both his knowledge and competencies. These disjointed, often confused and even vacuous replies proved however to be enough for the Judge and after taking time out over night to prepare her decision delivered a guilty verdict repeating almost word for word the decision of Judge Oleg Kamaldinov stated on 6th June, 2013. The only deviation made in Judge Botantsova’s statement concerned the level of fine reducing it by 100,000 Rubles to 400,000 Rubles (€9,500) her reasoning being that the maximum penalty of 500,000 (€12,500): “Was too severe.”
Side by Side organizers commenting on the decision: “Side by Side has been at the forefront of fighting for LGBT rights in Russia. In the six year period that we have existed, working throughout the country we have constantly come up against attack from the authorities, festivals being banned in Saint Petersburg (2008), Archangelsk (2010), Kemerovo (2010 and 2012) and Tomsk (2011). In a country that does not respect the rule of law, the rights of its citizens today’s verdict comes as no surprise to us. It is clear that the case is clearly politically motivated. The LGBT community is under persecution, a scapegoat for the country’s ills, on which the government is basing its populist policies.”
Manny de Guerre
Side by Side LGBT International Film Festival