Russian transgender woman has conviction overturned
A Russian court has overturned a guilty verdict that jailed a transgender woman for three years in 2019 for sharing erotic nude Japanese cartoons on social media.
The sentence was condemned by rights activists who said she would be unsafe in a men’s prison.
The 53-year-old, known as Michelle, has been having hormone therapy but is still legally male. She was freed on Wednesday from a male detention centre after an upper court upheld her appeal, her legal adviser posted online.
Her lawyers appealed against the sentence, which led to Michelle being held in solitary confinement in a pre-trial detention centre.
Michelle was convicted in November in her native city of Bryansk, southwest of Moscow, on child pornography charges for sharing the anime cartoons on her VK page, a Russian version of Facebook.
Michelle is expected to face the same charges in her retrial but with a different judge.
“She will be either killed or heavily beaten there,” predicted Lada Preobrazhenskaya, a trans-blogger and a friend of Michelle.
It was not clear what led to the conviction being overturned. Preobrazhenskaya said the court had stated that the case was “returned to the district court on the grounds of violation of the rules of justice”.
Michelle’s defence team said no one had been defined as a victim in court as the so-called minors were cartoon characters.
Michelle will be released until her retrial.
Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch’s regional desk expressed “relief” at Michelle’s release but feared what was to come.
“The case against her was not closed but rather sent for retrial,” she told the media.
“So as long as the case persists, Michelle’s rights to health, identity, expression, liberty and even to life hang in the balance.”
HRW also said Russian LGBT activist Yulia Tsvetkova, already under house arrest for two months for pornography distribution, faced new charges of allegedly violating Russian “gay propaganda” law.
Police claim Tsvetkova, 26, violated the “gay propaganda” law for posting on social media her drawing of two same-sex couples with children. The caption reads “Family is where love is. Support LGBT+ families.” Tsvetkova faces six years in jail on the separate pornography charge.
Tsvetkova the drawing was in support of a same-sex couple with two adopted children who fled Russia after being targeted by the authorities.
In December, a court in Komsomolsk-on-Amur fined Tsvetkova 50,000 rubles (US$800) under the gay propaganda law over posts in two social media groups which she administered. The judge appeared unconcerned that both groups were for over-18s although Russia’s “gay propaganda” ban only targets “propagating non-traditional sexual relations” to children.
Russia’s LGBT community faces considerable discrimination. Picture credit: Wikimedia