- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Russian court this week began hearing the case against Viktor Krasnov, a blogger who faces up to a year in prison for denying the existence of God during an online debate in 2014.

Mr. Krasnov, 38, is accused of violating a 2013 law that prohibits people from insulting the “religious feelings” of Russian citizens.

“If I say that the collection of Jewish fairytales entitled the Bible is complete [expletive], that is that. At least for me,” he wrote in an October 2014 exchange on Vkontakte, a Russian social media site.

“There is no God!” he added. 

The blogger’s remarks infuriated at least two other Vkontakte users, who in turn brought the posts to the attention of police. A federal probe was soon after opened.

Russia’s Investigative Committee eventually determined the comments to be “of an offensive character against a religion and aimed at insulting the religious feelings of believers.”

Mr. Krasnov was forced to spend a month in a Russian psychiatric hospital during the investigation before he was ultimately determined to be sane and allowed to stand trial, Russia’s Grani.Ru news portal reported on Tuesday.

“Knowing our Russian reality, I can’t say how this will end,” Mr. Krasnov said in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Russian Service. “If we take into account that courts are required to come out with guilty verdicts 99 percent of the time, there’s nothing I can say.”

Andrei Sabinin, a lawyer for the blogger, told RFE/RL that Mr. Krasnov’s accusers told the court during a closed-door hearing that they want him to be punished “for his remarks about God.”

“I don’t know how you can treat social networking posts seriously,” Mr. Krasnovadded to the Grani.Ru site this week. “Looks like we need a law to protect atheists’ feelings too.”

Mr. Krasnov is being tried under legislation, Article 148 of the Russian Criminal Code, enacted after musical group Pussy Riot performed a “punk prayer” inside a Moscow cathedral in February 2012.

Insulting the religious beliefs of others was punishable prior to passage of the controversial law, but amendments approved in the wake of the Pussy Riot incident opened up the possibility of prison sentences for persons blamed on being blasphemous.

The next court hearing in the case against Mr. Krasnov is scheduled for March 15, REF/RL reported.

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