Defamation / Reputation, Hate Speech, Political Expression
Awan v. Levant
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Aleksandr Byvshev, a teacher, wrote a poem titled “To Ukrainian Patriots.” He published the poem on Facebook and VKontakte, a Russian version of Facebook. The poem called for Ukrainian patriots to fight against Putin’s secret police and Russia. The poem was found to contain hate speech and classified as extremist, thus Aleksandr Byvshev was sentenced to 300 hours of correctional work and a two year ban on all teaching activities.
Aleksandr Byvshev, a teacher, wrote a poem titled “To Ukrainian Patriots.” On March 1, 2014, He published the poem on Facebook and VKontakte, a Russian version of Facebook. The poem spoke against Putin and the Kremlin by calling for Ukrainian patriots to fight against Putin’s secret police and Russia.
Rephrasing, the poem contained lines such as:
“Don’t give Crimea to Putin’s KGB agents”;
“Respond to the cunning Moscow band with in a Banderov fashion, let the invaders drown in their blood.”
In another line, the poem suggests that Ukrainians should feed the enemies lead kasha, thus suggesting the use of bullets.
The Ministry of the Interior of the Orlov Region received an anonymous complaint about the poem and initiated a criminal case against Byvshev under Criminal Code, art. 282, p. 1, prohibiting incitement of hatred and degradation of human dignity, punishable by a fine of RUB 200 thousand, or correctional work, or four years of imprisonment. The prosecutor also charged Byvshev with incitement of Ukrainian citizens to commit unlawful acts against Russian citizens.
The court did not rule on whether the poem caused ethnic violence or if anyone was harmed by it. Instead, the court focused solely on whether the poem contained hateful or extremist statements.
The government and Byvshev relied on experts who submitted opposing opinions on whether the poem contained hateful and extremist statements. The court sided with the prosecution’s expert, a professor at the Orlov Government Institute. The government expert concluded that the poem contained statements directly and indirectly inciting inter-ethnic hatred and calling for Ukrainian citizens to commit unlawful acts against Russian citizens.
The prosecution also submitted witness testimony from Byvshev’s students and colleagues, who claimed that he often criticized Russia, Putin, Medvedev, and argued for Ukrainian superiority over Russia. Further, the witnesses established that Byvshev’s heritage was Ukrainian, which he openly admitted. These factors served as the foundation for Byveshev’s prosecution.
The case has been accepted by ECtHR.
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The decision is from a court of first instance and can be appealed.
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