- Associated Press - Thursday, July 8, 2010

MOSCOW (AP) - Two prominent Moscow art curators facing the prospect of three years in prison for an exhibit that offended the Russian Orthodox Church said on Thursday their trial has been a political show.

The 2007 exhibit “Forbidden Art” set up by Yuri Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev featured paintings with images of Jesus Christ. In one, Christ appeared to his disciples as Mickey Mouse. In another one, of the crucifixion, Christ’s head was replaced by the Order of Lenin medal, the highest Soviet award.

Samodurov told reporters Thursday the trial reflected the desire of the Russian Orthodox Church and the government to tighten control over society. He said the church was coercing people into orthodoxy. “Unfortunately it is supported by the government,” he added.

Yerofeyev said the trial was political and “has nothing to do with democratic justice.” He said that a driving force behind their trial was the religious ultra-nationalist movement Narodny Sobor, or the People’s Assembly, led by Oleg Kassin.

The trial ended last month, and the judge is to deliver a verdict Monday. The defendants and their lawyers have said the court proceedings were biased in favor of the prosecution.

Artists, rights activists, journalists and opposition figures have signed several open letters calling for the charges to be dropped. The latest letter, signed by some of the biggest names in Russian art, was sent to President Dmitry Medvedev.

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