By Advocate Contributors
Originally published on Advocate.com April 23 2012 6:05 PM ET
A hearing for two men arrested in St. Petersburg for violating the local so-called propaganda law was cut short when one of the witnesses failed to come to court.
“This is the shortest court hearing in my life. The witness did not show up,” said Igor Konchetkov, one of the two men arrested in St. Petersburg on April 7 for holding pro-equality signs outside the Oktyaberksy Theater. Weeks earlier, doing so would not have been illegal but the new law in effect in Russia’s 2nd largest city now vaguely bans any display of homosexual “propaganda” that might be witnessed by children (in public or on social media sites like Facebook).
Today’s hearing was supposed to include testimony from a police officer named Panov about Konchetkov's arrest. The officer had been given a court order to appear at today’s hearing, but it is unknown why he failed to appear. The judge has now changed that court order to a warrant to force him to appear on May 4 before the court.
Last week, the arresting officer in the Sergey Kondrashov case appeared and gave testimony before this same judge. Her ruling today was that Kondrashov was guilty of article 19.3: disobeying police orders by refusing to stop displaying a sign that read, “A dear family friend is lesbian. My wife and I love and respect her … and her family is just as equal as ours.” The more significant charge of homosexual propaganda, article 7.1, was not ruled on by the court. The judge addressed the lack of ruling by stating that she had no evidence or protocols to make a decision on the violation.
Kondrashov said he intends to continue the fight over this law by appealing the ruling. “The courts are afraid of applying this law and do not want to take responsibility for its further enforcement practice. The decision of the judge is illogical and questionable not only to the lawyers eyes, but also to common citizens’ ones. I am determined to appeal against this ruling,” Kondrashov said in a statement. Kondrashov, who is himself a lawyer, further explained that the judge’s failure to rule on article 7.1 was illogical because it isn’t possible to disobey a police order without first determining whether the person was violating a law that warranted the order in the first place.