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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Court Drops Charges Against Sex Magazine

A Moscow City Court this week dismissed pornography charges against a sexually explicit magazine on a technicality but the publishers vowed Wednesday to continue a four-year court battle until they were completely vindicated.


Alexei Kostin and Zufar Gareyev, the publishers of Yeshchyo, were arrested and held in custody for some time in 1994 on charges of illegally distributing pornography and were found guilty by a Moscow local court in July this year.


But an appeal in the Moscow City Court on Wednesday overturned the convictions on the technicality that the prosecution had taken too long bringing the case to court. The criminal procedure code sets a limit of two years between the bringing of charges and the start of proceedings in court.


Gareyev said he would appeal the Supreme Court to get a ruling on the general principle of freedom of expression and the role of pornography.


"We want it shown that no crime was committed," Gareyev said Wednesday.


The high-profile case, which was Russia's first test of pornography laws, has raised questions about freedom of speech and public morality.


Kostin had called in independent expert witnesses, including esteemed linguist Yury Sorokin and sexologist Eduard Dvorkin to support their claim that Yeshchyo should not be considered pornographic.


"Pornography is impossible to define," Sorokin said. "What could be construed as pornography exists to a greater extent in fiction, on the streets and in the White House."


Sorokin said Wednesday that the court case was an attempt by a Soviet bureaucratic structure to silence those who deviated from their interpretation of normal behavior.


"They believe that in printing explicit material, these people have violated sacred human taboos," he said.


Sorokin contends Yeshchyo provides a necessary forum in which sexual minorities could express their preferences openly and exchange opinions. "It is a spectacular document."


Wednesday's decision was largely symbolic because the publishers were not jailed after the conviction in July. Although sentenced to 18 months in jail, they were immediately pardoned under an amnesty to mark the 50th anniversary of victory in World War II.


The case has highlighted the uncertainty surrounding the definition of pornography under Russian law.


Kostin and Gareyev claim they broke no law because Yeshchyo was legally registered with the State Press Committee at the time the charges were laid.


They also said that the criminal code lists "illegal" distribution of pornographic materials as a crime but offers no guidance on what qualifies a publication as illegal pornography.


A spokeswoman in the State Press Committee's registration department, said Wednesday that Yeshchyo was no longer registered among the 27 legal erotic publications in Russia. "We don't register pornography," she said.


She denied there was any uncertainty about the law on pornography. "This is outlawed under the 1991 law on mass media," she said.