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4 Dutch Tourists Arrested Under Russia’s Anti-Gay Law

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Tuesday July 23, 2013

Four Dutch tourists visiting Russia were arrested under the country's highly controversial "homosexual propaganda" law on Sunday after authorities believed they were promoting homosexuality to minors, Opposing Views reports.

The tourists were arrested for interviewing Russian youth on their views on gay rights for a documentary they were working on.

A report by Russian LGBT Network, translated by the Huffington Post, explained that the tourist arrived in Murmansk, a port city in the extreme northwest part of Russia, in mid-July to start work on the film and look for gay individuals in the area. The tourists held a seminar with the local LGBT group Center Maximum on Sunday, which resulted in the arrest of the Kris van der Veen. Gay Star News calls van der Veen "a councilor for the left-wing green party GroenLinks in Groningen, [Netherlands]" and that he is the chairman of the foundation KGBT Groningen, which promotes LGBT rights.

A camerawoman, a sound technician and a female student and members of Center Maximum were also arrested.

During the event, police were reportedly looking for minors and discovered a 17-year-old speaking on the film. The teen told the crew he was 18 at the time of the interview, however, the report states. Under the "gay propaganda" law, authorities were able to detain the Dutch tourists.

Gay Star News reports this is the first time foreigners have been arrested for breaking the "gay propaganda" law and that Groningen is the "sister city" of Murmansk.

Earlier this month, it was announced the controversial measure, which was signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 30, would impact openly gay tourists visiting the conservative country. The law bans people from sharing LGBT information to Russian youth, and if violated, citizens and tourists can be fined up to 20,000 rubles (around $6,000) for "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations." Tourists can also face up to two weeks in jail for breaking the law.

According to Gay Star News, the four tourists were released on Monday.

"The court date was cancelled because it never came to us," a representative of the Leninsky district court said. A police source confirmed to Gay Star News that the case against the tourists was dropped.

Putin also recently signed another measure that effectively limits adoption of Russian children by people from countries that allow same-sex marriage.

On Sunday, Broadway star Harvey Fierstein wrote an op-ed for the New York Times, criticizing Russia’s anti-gay laws, comparing the measures to Nazi Germany.

"Mr. Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain taken straight from the Nazi playbook," Fierstein wrote. "Can we allow this war against human rights to go unanswered? Although Mr. Putin may think he can control his creation, history proves he cannot: his condemnations are permission to commit violence against gays and lesbians. Last week a young gay man was murdered in the city of Volgograd. He was beaten, his body violated with beer bottles, his clothing set on fire, his head crushed with a rock. This is most likely just the beginning."

Although a number of human rights supporters and celebrities, like Madonna, Lady Gaga and Tilda Swinton, have slammed the anti-gay measures, some U.S. conservatives have lauded the passage of the laws.

"You admire some of the things they’re doing in Russia against propaganda," said Austin Ruse, president of the U.S.-based Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. "On the other hand, you know it would be impossible to do that here."

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