Dutch activists arrested in Russia under the country’s controversial new laws banning the promotion of “homosexual propaganda” to minors have returned home safely to the Netherlands, according to the group’s Facebook page.
The four Dutch citizens from the LGBTI advocacy group LGBT Groningen were arrested on Sunday in the northern Russian city of Murmansk when police and migration officials reportedly raided an event for young LGBTI activists.
LGBT Groningen’s president Kris van der Veen (pictured) gave a lecture on LGBTI rights at the event, attended by local advocacy group Center Maximum. Members of the local group were also arrested.
Having travelled to Russia to shoot a film about LGBTI rights in the country, the four Dutch citizens were questioned for around eight hours following their arrest, according to Tatyana Kulbakina from Russian human rights monitoring organisation OGON.
The activists were set to appear in a Russian court on Monday, but after several delays to the start of court proceedings the hearings were cancelled. Kulbakina was present at the court, and told The Moscow Times the judge returned the case materials for further investigation.
Kulbakina also said the footage the four had already recorded for the documentary is in police custody, and the activists had each been fined 3,000 rubles (roughly $100AU).
Russian officials reportedly believed the Dutch filmmakers had interviewed a minor about LGBTI issues, prompting the raid and subsequent arrests. Police did not find any minors attending the event, but discovered a 17-year-old in footage taken by LGBT Groningen. Russian press reported the teen had told the filmmakers he was 18 years old at the time of the interview.
The arrests are the first high-profile applications of Russia’s widely-condemned new laws, confirming earlier fears by human rights organisations they would be used to target foreign LGBTI visitors to the country.
Russia has faced widespread criticism for the laws, signed into effect by President Vladimir Putin just weeks ago. The laws make it illegal for anyone to “promote” homosexuality to minors, effectively preventing parents from discussing sexuality with LGBTI young people.
There is also concern the laws will be used to target LGBTI athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi. The International Olympic Committee last week released a statement saying it will “work to ensure” no discrimination against LGBTI participants.