Russian Atheist Faces Jail Time for What He Wrote in the Comments

Atheist faces a year in jail for denying existence of God in webchat.

Viktor Krasnov, a Russian blogger accused of denying God's existence in online comments could be sentenced to one year jail term. This could be done under a law which was put in place following the Pussy Riot case. The principal charge against him was that he insulted religious believers' feelings.

Krasnov, who is 38 years old, had appeared in court on March 3. His prosecution is in accordance with a 2013 law that can only be described as controversial. This law has been used against a number of people, including Pussy Riot, the punk art group, when they gave a performance in the main cathedral of Moscow. The charges against him carry the maximum punishment of one year. It is given on the basis of an internet exchange which the defendant has done in 2014. The chat took place on his hometown’s local website.

In the charge, Krasnov wrote that the Bible is a collection of fairytales from Jewish culture and that the Christian Holy Book is utter “bullshit” for him. He continued to say that he denies God's existence. One person whom he was chatting with, and who has a contrarian point of view lodged a complaint. The complaint accused that he is offending sentiments of the Orthodox believers.

According to legal experts, the wording of the law is not precise. Stricter punishments have paved the way for self-censorship and increased censorship. The investigators of this case have asked in June 2015 that Viktor Krasnov be hospitalized for a month. The subsequent psychiatric tests concluded that he was medically sane. In a sentence, he was deemed to be sane. The court, in September 2015, ordered linguistic tests. The tests detected “insults” directed towards believers in his comments.

Krasnov's lawyer has contested these conclusions. He put forward the argument that his client is simply an atheist. He pointed out that Krasnov has also targeted Jewish and Halloween holidays. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 15.

The 2012 Pussy Riot case witnessed the Russian group's three members being sentenced for hooliganism. The charge specifically mentioned the religious hatred angle towards hooliganism. It mentioned that the members of the group held a “punk prayer” that criticized Vladimir Putin inside a Moscow cathedral. The two members spent about 21 months inside a jail cell.

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