BY TOBY PORTER firstname.lastname@example.org
British gay campaigner Peter Tatchell was arrested by Russian police in Moscow and released on bail on the opening day of the World Cup.
Southwark-based Mr Tatchell was protesting at the suppression and persecution of homosexuals in Chechnya.
He was held for what Russian police described as an “illegal protest” as he took part in a solitary demonstration near Red Square to bring attention to human rights abuses against gay men in Chechnya.
He tweeted that he had been charged with violating Federal Law 54 and Presidential Decree 202, which prohibit all protests near the Kremlin and during the World Cup.
Moscow Police said that he has now been released following his detention for one hour and 40 minutes, after being charged with breaking the law on public meetings.
Mr Tatchell is due to appear in court on June 26. He said: “My Moscow protest was in solidarity with heroic Russian and Chechen LGBT people. I salute and support their struggle.
The human rights-abusing Putin regime must not be allowed to score a PR coup with the World Cup. There can be no normal sporting relations with an abnormal regime.
“I was detained by Moscow police today but this was nothing compared to what happens to LGBT+ people in Chechnya: held without trial, tortured and sometimes killed. And that is why protested. President Putin could stop this persecution but has failed to do so. Shame.”
A spokesman for the UK’s Foreign Office said: “We are concerned to learn that Peter Tatchell was arrested in Moscow. Consular staff have spoken to Mr Tatchell and have confirmed that he has been released.”
A statement from the British Embassy in Moscow said: “Our staff in Moscow are assisting Peter Tatchell who was arrested, and subsequently released, in Russia.
“We have spoken to the local authorities and are pleased to confirm that he is well and has now been released.” Amnesty International released a statement condemning Mr Tatchell’s arrest.
Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s director, said: “The response to Peter Tatchell’s protest is straight out of the Russian authorities’ playbook – protest in a high-profile location like Red Square, hold a placard criticising Putin or speak in support of LGBTI rights in public, and face immediate arrest by the police.
“In present-day Russia, there is not the right to peacefully protest, no right to publicly stand up for LGBTI people, and certainly no chance of staging a street protest about last year’s sinister gay crackdown in Chechnya.
“It’s no surprise to hear that Mr Tatchell has been arrested solely for exercising his right to peaceful protest. We understand he has now been released but will stand trial for this ‘offence’. This is outrageous – all charges against him should be dropped immediately.
“Peter Tatchell’s arrest should not distract attention from his message. The Russian authorities should explain what steps have been taken in earnest to investigate reports of a ‘gay purge’ in the Chechen Republic.”
Mr Tatchell – co-founder of the direct action group OutRage! – has been championing civil liberties and gay rights in the UK since 1971.
He is one of the few people to have a blue plaque on his current house, in Southwark. It was unveiled by actor Sir Ian McKellen in 2010.