- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2017

An activist accused of violating Russia’s law against “gay propaganda” has been fined for sharing links on social media involving the LGBT movement, including articles published by BuzzFeed and The Guardian.

Evdokiya Romanova, a 27-year-old LGBT rights activist living in Samara, Russia, was fined 50,000 rubles ($870) Wednesday for illegally “propagating nontraditional sexual orientations among minors through the use of the internet,” according to regional media reports.

Ms. Romanova was first contacted by law enforcement in late July and told she was wanted for questioning in an ongoing criminal investigation, according to Meduza, a Russian news portal that frequently publishes reports critical of President Vladimir Putin’s regime. She was subsequently interrogated by police about her posts on Facebook and Vkontakte, a Russian social networking service, and was formally charged in September with violating Moscow’s ban against so-called “gay propaganda.”

Russia’s repressive anti-gay law has been on the books since 2013, but Ms. Romanova’s case is particularly newsworthy given its ties to Western media outlets.

Ms. Romanova landed in hot water for sharing a total of five links on social media in 2015 and 2016, including a report published by The Guardian on same-sex marriage in Ireland and a BuzzFeed article on LGBT rights activists in St. Petersburg, as well as links to the website for the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, an international health organization, Meduza reported.

She was convicted during a closed-door court hearing Wednesday in Samara before Judge Julia Potapova, the Echo of Moscow radio station reported. She intends to appeal, the report said.

Amnesty International, one of the world’s largest human rights organizations, called for abolishing Russia’s anti-gay law following the judge’s ruling Wednesday.

“Even the simple freedom to share an online story with friends is now limited by legislation that is blatantly discriminatory and homophobic,” Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement. “We reiterate our call on the Russian authorities to repeal this legislation and respect every person’s right to freedom of expression.”

At least 15 Russians have been fined for illegally spreading “gay propaganda” since the law took effect in 2013, Meduza reported. Individuals convicted of violating the law face a maximum fine of up to 100,000 rubles, or about $1,700.

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