MOSCOW, Russia – A man in southern Russia faces a prison sentence after he was charged with “insulting the feelings of religious believers” over an internet exchange in which he wrote that “there is no God”.
Viktor Krasnov, 38, who appeared in court Wednesday, is being prosecuted under a bizarre 2013 law that was introduced after punk art group Pussy Riots performed in Moscow’s main cathedral, his lawyer Andrei Sabinin said. Two Pussy Riot members were sentenced to two years in prison under charges of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred,” amid international outrage.
Amnesty International has criticized Article 148 for showing “the shrinking space for freedom of expression in Russia.” The group said the law has “no place on the statute books of modern, rights-respecting democracy.”
The charges – which carry a maximum one-year jail sentence – centre on an internet exchange that Krasnov was involved in in 2014 on a humorous local website in his hometown of Stavropol.
“If I say that the collection of Jewish fairytales entitled the Bible is complete bullshit, that is that. At least for me,” Krasnov wrote, adding later “there is no God!”
One of the people involved in the dispute with Krasnov then lodged a complaint against him accusing him of “”insulting their religious feelings.”
Krasnov told Svoboda, Radio Free Europe’s Russian Service, he has received threats from Russian Orthodox Christian extremists, who said they would “do all sorts of bad things” to him and his family. He said he reported the threats to the police, who told him, “When you are killed, then come.”
Krasnov, whose case began last month, spent one month in a psychiatric ward last year undergoing psychiatric examinations before he was finally deemed to be sane.
Krasnov’s lawyer insists that his client was “simply an atheist” and that he had taken aim at both “Halloween and Yiddish holidays” in the same exchange.