The Case of Sheikh Ali Salman [Bahrain]
Closed Contracts Expression
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The Zelenograd District Court of Moscow sentenced Yevgeniy Kort to one year in prison for inciting hatred toward non-ethnic Russians. The case arose after Mr. Kort shared, on his social media account, a cartoon that portrayed a well-known Russian nationalist pushing a famous Russian poet against a wall and uttering a xenophobic remark. The court relied upon expert opinion, witness testimony and other evidence, including books about Nazi soldiers found in Mr. Kort’s apartment, to reach its guilty verdict. His sentence was subsequently reduced to a fine of 200,000 rubles (about $3,400) on appeal.
Yevgeniy Kort claimed that he inadvertently published a cartoon on the Russian social media site VKontakte. The cartoon depicted Maxim Martsinkevich, a well-known Russian nationalist, pushing Alexander Pushkin, a famous Russian poet of mixed-race, against a wall while calling him “churka” (a derogatory term used to refer to people with dark skin and complexion).
Mr. Kort alleged that he saved the image, as he saves a lot of content. However, when Mr. Kort saved the image, VKontakte automatically shared it to his network.
The prosecutor general charged Mr. Kort under article 282, section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code, which penalizes actions aimed at inciting hatred or hostility and denigrating human dignity on the basis of sex, race, nationality, language, origins, religious beliefs, or belonging to a social group.
In making its ruling, the Zelenograd District Court of Moscow considered Mr. Kort’s interest in Nazi imagery online, and his negative opinions of Russia. In order to secure Mr. Kort’s conviction, the prosecutors sought to establish that he was a Nazi sympathizer. In order to do this, they reviewed his browser history, searched his home, and interviewed several witnesses. The browser searches revealed that he had downloaded photos of Nazi soldiers. He also had several books at home depicting the experiences of Nazi soldiers on the Eastern Front during World War II. Witnesses, including Mr. Kort’s brother, testified to his interest in Nazi ideology and his enmity towards Russia.
With regard to the cartoon, a court-appointed expert concluded that the image contained a set of derogatory psychological and linguistic signs targeting non-ethnic Russians.
On the basis of these expert and witness testimonies, the court held that Mr. Kort incited national hatred against non-ethnic Russians by publishing the image in question and sentenced him to one year in a penal colony.
His sentence was subsequently reduced to a fine of 200,000 rubles (about $3,400) on appeal.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
This case contracts freedom of expression. Even though the defendant in this case supported Nazism, his prison sentence was a disproportionate measure when balanced against the harm caused by his expression. He had shared a single image on his personal social media page that did not lead to any violence. Furthermore, he had no intention to share the image publicly and, therefore, could not have intended to incite others to violence or hatred.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
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