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Russian Man Faces a Year in Prison For Denying the Existence of God Online

After expressing his lack of belief in God on social media, a Russian man was arrested and charged with “offending the feelings of believers”. Victor Krasnov is now on trial and facing up to a year in prison for writing things like “there is no God” and “the Bible is a collection of Jewish fairy tales” during an online discussion on the Russian social networking website Vk.com.

Shortly after the discussion in 2014, Krasnov and his mother began to receive anonymous threats. Then, in the fall of 2015, a couple of his friends who were part of the discussion – Dmitry D., 24, and Alexander K., 23 – pressed charges against him, claiming that they were representing the interests of all Orthodox Christians in Russia. The Investigative Committee (similar to the FBI) interrogated Krasnov for over a month, during which he was also subjected to psychiatric evaluations. He was declared sane, but the Committee decided that although he did not directly insult any individual, his comments did hurt the feelings of religious people.

Offending the feelings of believers was made a criminal offence in the nation in 2012, after punk band Pussy Riot’s blasphemous performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. For this reason, Krasnov is now being tried in court in his hometown of Stavropol in southern Russia.

Viktor-Krasnov

Photo: VK.com

Krasnov claims that during the preliminary investigations, he wasn’t given an opportunity to present his side of the story. The prosecutor’s office apparently deleted all the comments made by Dmitry and Alexander and presented only Krasnov’s words, making it look as though he was deliberately offending their religious sentiments. The next court hearing, scheduled for March 15, will be attended by linguistic experts who believe that Krasnov’s statements insulted the feelings of believers on the social network.

“I don’t know how you can treat social networking posts seriously,” Krasnov said, speaking to Grani.ru, an anti-government news website. “The investigators misused my words, removing from them the context of the dispute. The decision to restore the original conversation was only made by the court, almost two years after the incident.”

Viktor-Krasnov2

Photo: Grani.ru

“We are not Orthodox, we are a secular state,” he added. “Everyone has the right to their religious beliefs. I will submit a counterclaim, because I suffered huge material losses and moral damage. The first 11 months of the investigation were the most unpleasant and difficult time for me. I was forced to spend 30 days in a psychiatric hospital.” During this time, Krasnov, a blacksmith, claims that he suffered huge losses because he was unable to work.

During the course of the investigation, Viktor claims his computer and mobile phone were seized and his request for a lawyer was denied not once, but five times. He was forced to move in with some friends for a month to protect his mother who had also become a target for religious extremists. He says people started showing up at her workplace and asking management to fire her on grounds that her son was an extremist. It sounds almost unbelievable, but the man says there are witnesses who can confirm his claims.

Viktor-Krasnov3

Viktor Krasnov (right)) and the two “victims” who pressed charges (left)

Regarding the reaction of his family and friends, Krasnov says they have all been very supportive throughout the long ordeal. He has also received encouragement from journalists and bloggers who understand that in Russia, this kind of thing can happen to anyone.

Meanwhile, he continues to receive death threats from Orthodox fanatics, but authorities don’t seem to eager to investigate those.

 

“Looks like we need a law to protect atheists’ feelings too,” he added, wryly.

Sources: Grani.ru, Life News, Komsomolskaya Pravda

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