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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rights Activists Demand Release of Jailed Porn Publisher

Two human rights organizations called Tuesday for the release of Alexei Kostin, the jailed publisher of the erotic newspaper Yeshcho.


"Our struggle will produce results," Alexander Tkachenko, the general director of the Russian PEN Center, which is dedicated to protecting and supporting writers, told a press conference that the group jointly sponsored with the International Human Rights Society.


Kostin was arrested Feb. 4 and put in Butyrka prison, where he has been awaiting trial ever since. He has been charged under Article 228 of the Russian Criminal Code, which prohibits the distribution of pornography.


Yeshcho is registered, and no attempt has been made to close it down, even though the public prosecutor's office has ruled its distribution and sale illegal. The newspaper is continuing to publish and distribute from Riga, Latvia.


Tkachenko distributed a copy of a letter the PEN Center sent to President Boris Yeltsin protesting Kostin's continued incarceration.


It read, "As an international human rights organization, the Russian PEN Center draws your attention to a flagrant violation of human rights, and to the unacceptability of keeping Kostin in custody."


The letter was signed by Tkachenko and the president of the Russian PEN Center, Andrei Bitov.


Boris Miller, vice president of the Russian chapter of the International Human Rights Society, was heated in his defense of Kostin.


"We will never be a free society while innocent people are being arrested and kept in prison," he said. "Article 228 violates the Constitution, the law on the media, and common sense."


Miller pointed out that the Russian Criminal Code contains many arcane laws, including ones prohibiting hard-currency transactions and anti-Soviet activity.


"There is not even a Soviet Union anymore, but you can go to jail for acting against it," he said. "We do not know exactly why the outmoded pornography law has been applied to Kostin, but it is clear he stepped on someone's toes."


Kostin's defenders also distributed a copy of a letter signed by Sergei Gryzunov, newly appointed chairman of the Committee on the Press, which is the successor to the Ministry of Press and Information. Gryzunov appealed to the Nikulinsky Court, where the case is being tried, for Kostin's release.


"Alexei Kostin has not attempted to run away or hide. He is no danger to society. The actions of officials against him can be considered nothing other than arbitrariness," he wrote.