Moscow Gay Club Under Threats of Closing – Hostage of an Electoral Campaign?
As the story developed today, it turned that the club became the hostage of the electoral fight in one of Moscow’s constituencies for the upcoming City Duma elections.
“It’s not a question of a gay club, it’s not a question of the society of blind people, it’s not a question of sexual minorities, it is a question of an electoral campaign which started and in which I am running in the same constituency than the Prefect,” declared tonight Oleg Smolin, deputy and member of the Communist party.
The deputy announced that he will sue the Prefect in court over an attempt to spoil his reputation in the upcoming electoral campaign.
Mr Smolin claims 5 million roubles (approx 109’700 EUR) from the Prefect and 1 rouble from each TV channel which reported the story.
Mr Mitvol and Mr Smolin are running in the same constituency in two opposed lists.
Last Friday, the Prefect of the Northern administrative district of Moscow accused Mr Smolin of protecting the interests of the club “Body&Soul (ex-Chance)”.
“The Duma deputy of the Communist Party is protecting the interests of this club. Is it moral?” Mr Mitvol asked the journalists last Friday.
The same day the Prefect raided the club at night joined by the anti-drug police and the prosecution department, arresting two clients.
At the end of July Mr Mitvol initiated a campaign for morality in the city targeting gay clubs, saunas and love hotels saying that “such places which lead to the moral degradation of citizens and become the source of troubles should be closed”.
Citing complaints from residents to his office, Mr Mitvol received an unsurprising backing of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians (Pentecostals) which gathered 70 persons during a protest held in front of the club “Body&Soul (ex-Chance)” on Saturday. The action was authorized by the city authorities.
Earlier today, the LGBT Network, asked the Criminal Prosecution to open an investigation against the Prefect for incitation to hatred and degradation of human dignity.
“There is nothing in the words of the Prefect which can lead to his prosecution on the basis of Article 282 of Russian Criminal Code”, declared head of Russian LGBT Human Rights Project GayRussia.Ru Nikolai Alekseev.
“In comparison to what we heard in 2005 from the Mufti Tadjuddin and in 2008 from the Governor of Tambov region Oleg Betin, Mr Mitvol did not call to beat or kill gays and lesbians”, Alekseev added.
Following the request, sent to the prosecution, the Prefect declared tonight that “gays have started a campaign to support communists and became their lawyers”.
Mr Mitvol’s campaign for increased morality targeted only one gay club.
Local observers mention that surprisingly the Prefect targeted so far only a gay club which happens to rent its hall from an organization of which the Vice President is Mr Smolin, his direct competitor in the upcoming elections.
Mr Smolin said tonight that his complain to court will argue that the words of the Prefect saying he protects a gay club is an attempt to spoil his reputation over the electoral campaign.
This case will not be a premiere in Russian court history.
In September Moscow Court will hear the complaint of a former participant in the Russian version of Big Brother’s TV show against the newspaper “Express Gazeta” and the gay internet portal Gay.ru
Vasiliy Pechen is suing over allegation in which he was described as gay and working as a male prostitute. He told the journalists that he was refused several jobs after the allegations were published.
The claimant is seeking financial damages of 3 million roubles (approx 65’800 EUR) from “Express Gazeta” and 1 million roubles (approx 22’000 EUR) from Gay.ru. In addition, Mr Pechen demands a refutation to be published by the defendants.
“Sexual orientation on its own should not be considered as spoiling a reputation. This goes exactly against what we are fighting for,” said Nikolai Alekseev, before adding that “being gay is not unlawful in Russia”.
“However, information that someone is getting money for sex services is a different story especially since prostitution carries an administrative fine according to the law,” he added.