*** Where are the freedom of speech crusaders? Oh yeah, its not Islam involved so don't worry about it, right? :S
But hey - at least we can count on Christians not to take to the streets, breaking things and being otherwise violently offended. I wish though that Christians would take a stand against desecrating the image of Jesus - not the physical image necessarily but the place of sanctity he has in BOTH Christianity and Islam. MS ***
WINNIPEG (CBC) - Artists and rights activists in Russia have asked the Kremlin to intervene in a court case against two Moscow curators accused of inciting religious hatred.
Yury Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev, curators of the exhibit Forbidden Art at the Sakharov Museum, face a prison sentence of up to three years on charges related to the show.
Several paintings in the 2007 exhibit at the human rights centre named after dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov depicted Jesus Christ. In one, Jesus appears to his disciples as Mickey Mouse, and in another his head is replaced by an image of the Lenin medal.
Samodurov and Yerofeyev were charged under a law against inciting religious hatred and have spent 14 months on trial. A judge makes her ruling on July 12.
The charges were laid in 2008, apparently after pressure on prosecutors by religious ultra-nationalist groups and the Russian Orthodox Church.
These groups, which have powerful political allies, continued the pressure throughout the trial. Prosecutors are now asking for a three-year sentence for the curators.
Yerofeyev, a former head of contemporary art at the State Tretyakov Gallery whose brother Viktor Yerofeyev is a contributor to The New Yorker, said he was threatened in court by members of Narodny Sobor, or People's Assembly.
Artists, rights activists, journalists and opposition figures have signed several open letters calling for the charges to be dropped. A letter was sent last Friday to President Dmitry Medvedev asking him to intervene.
"We are sure that a guilty verdict for Yerofeyev and Samodurov would be a verdict for all Russian contemporary art and would become one more step in establishing open and secret forms of cultural censorship," the letter said.
"The church has become an instrument of censorship like it was during czarist times," said Gleb Yakunin, a Soviet-era dissident and priest who has been critical of the church's role in encouraging prosecution. "It wants to control culture."
The Forbidden Art exhibit did not concentrate on religious art, but included works that had been banned from shows at major museums and galleries in 2006 in an effort to call attention to issues of censorship, Yerofeyev said. He defended the right of artists to use religious symbols in their work.
Yerofeyev was previously convicted of inciting religious hatred and fined the equivalent of $3,600 for an exhibit in 2003 called Caution: Religion!
Earlier this week a Russian Orthodox Church spokesman publicly urged prosecutors to punish the curators.