Russia has acquitted the feminist artist on trial for pornography

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MOSCOW-A court in Russia’s far east on Friday granted an extraordinary acquittal to a feminist artist accused of spreading pornography after she shared artwork online depicting female bodies.

The cases against activist Yulia Tsvetkova, 29, in the far eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur have sparked international outrage, with human rights groups linking her persecution to the aggressive the Kremlin’s promotion of “traditional family values.” Russia’s most prominent women’s rights group has faced crackdown in recent years.

In a 15-month trial that took place behind closed doors, the prosecution sought a prison sentence of three years and two months on charges of spreading pornography. The charges were reportedly linked to Tsvetkova’s group on the popular Russian social media network VKontakte, where stylish drawings of the genitals were posted. Tsvetkova was not allowed to disclose the details of the criminal case against her.

The judge acquitted the actor on Friday.

“We are glad, but not entirely,” Tsvetkova’s mother, Anna Khodyreva, wrote on Facebook after announcing the decision, adding that the prosecution still has 10 days to appeal the verdict.

Acquittal in a criminal case is a rare occurrence in Russia. According to Russia’s Investigative Committee, less than 1% of defendants in criminal cases were acquitted by courts last year.

Tsvetkova’s trial began in April last year, eight months after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed constitutional changes banning same-sex marriage and requiring the government to “preserve traditional values ​​in family. ”

Tsvetkova ran a children’s theater and became a vocal advocate of feminism and LGBT rights. She founded an online group called Vagina Monologues that encouraged followers to fight the stigma and taboos surrounding a woman’s body, and posted other people’s art here.

He was arrested in November 2019 and spent the next four months under house arrest. Her home was raided, along with her mother’s education studio for children. The activist was fined twice for violating Russia’s law against spreading gay “propaganda” to minors and declared a “foreign agent” – a designation with strong connotations that suggests further investigation of government and seeks to discredit the recipient.

Tsvetkova maintained her innocence. Khodyreva, her unruly mother, told The Associated Press last year that “Yulia has always been against pornography.… Feminists are against pornography because it is an exploitation of women’s bodies.”

The case against Tsvetkova caused severe damage to her and her family. Khodyreva said that, in addition to harassment from authorities, she and her daughter received death threats and were repeatedly harassed by strangers. Khodyreva’s children’s education studio has lost many clients. Tsvetkova’s children’s theater, the Merak, was gone – frequent visits by law enforcement were too distressing for the children so it closed.

In an extraordinary interview last month, an anxious Tsvetkova said that “my life was completely destroyed.” “It’s not a metaphor, it’s reality,” he told the BBC’s British broadcaster.

Many public figures spoke in support of Tsvetkova. Activists across Russia protested his persecution, artists offered performances to him and an online petition asking to drop the charges garnered more than 250,000 signatures.

Russia’s well -known Memorial human rights group has declared Tsvetkova a political prisoner.