A bill introducing big fines or a prison term for public humiliation of religious rites or other insults to believers’ feelings has been approved in the first reding by the Russian parliament’s lower house.
330 members of the State Duma voted for the bill and seven voted against, with one abstention. The bill is expected to amend the Russian Criminal Code with a new article mandating punishment for deliberate and public insults to believers’ feelings, with fines of up to 300,000 rubles (about $10,000), and up to 200 hours of forced labor or up to three years in prison.
The initial version of the bill was introduced in September 2012, half a year after a punk band Pussy Riot staged a gig in Moscow’s main cathedral. Three of the band's members were sentenced for two years in prison for aggravated hooliganism, and one later had her sentence suspended.
However, that version of the draft was widely criticized by by the Presidential Council for Human Rights, as well as the government, and the draft was sent for a re-working. The current draft was not changed significantly, but its sponsors say they expect human rights activists and other critics to submit their suggestions and amendments before a second reading of the bill.
Author: Julia Alieva