Source Pravda.Ru

Director of Sakharov Museum fined over 'blasphemous' exhibit

A Moscow court on Monday convicted the director of the Sakharov Museum on charges of inciting religious hatred by organizing a controversial exhibit condemned by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Yuri Samodurov was fined 100,000 ruble (US$3,600; €2,770) by the Tagansky district court, which slapped a similar fine on Samodurov's co-worker. A third defendant, an artist who contributed to the show, was acquitted.

The Sakharov Museum, also a leading human rights group, was founded to promote democracy and human rights championed by the late Soviet dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov.

The 2003 exhibit - titled "Caution, Religion" - featured works by about 40 artists, including a Russian Orthodox-style icon with a hole instead of a head where visitors could insert their faces. Another work featured a Coca-Cola logo with Jesus' face drawn next to it and the words: "This is my blood."

Members of the Russian Orthodox Church called the exhibit blasphemous and insulting, and urged officials to press charges.

The court rejected prosecutors demands for three years internal exile for Samodurov and two years for the other two defendants - museum worker Lyudmila Vasilovskaya and artist Anna Mikhalchuk.

All three had pleaded innocent, saying they didn't understand how specific works at the exhibition were inciting religious hatred.

The trial was watched closely by atheists and religious minorities, who claim that Russia's dominant Orthodox Church has ties that are too close with the state, and that religious symbolism has become as omnipresent and oppressive as atheism was in Soviet times.

Associated Press

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