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LONDON, September 16, 2010 – An MEP has expressed “deep concern” following the arrest yesterday evening of Nikolai Alekseev, the high-profile Russian gay activist who was detained at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow as he was about to board a Swiss Air Lines flight to Geneva.
According to Russian news agency Interfax, Mr. Alekseev has been taken out of Russia and is now in Minsk, Belarus. The agency is reporting that Mr. Alekseev has been in touch by SMS.
Sarah Ludford, the London LibDem MEP who sits with the ALDE group in the European Parliament, hit out at the Russian authorities today.
“Nikolai Alekseev’s arrest is of deep concern,” she said in a statement to UK Gay News issued through her London office.
“He was not given any explanation for his detention and it has been suggested that the secret services are involved.
“State-sponsored homophobia, as shown by bans on gay prides, is common in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe, and I fear that this arrest of a prominent gay rights campaigner may be part of this.
“I urge the European Union to use its influence as Russia’s major trading partner to try and better the country’s LGBT rights record.”
And the seven presidents and vice presidents of the European Parliament's all-party 'Intergroup' for Gay and Lesbian Human Rights, together with Chairwoman of the Parliament's Human Rights Subcommittee Heidi Hautala, have written urgently to the EU Delegation to the Russian Federation in Moscow, who are now following up on the case.
In Berlin, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs is understood to have taken-up the case with the Russian Authorities. Volker Beck, the openly gay Green MP in the German Parliament said that he had alerted the Ministry late last night when he heard of the arrest.
Today, the German Green Party issued a statement in German. It can be read online in English translation by Google HERE.
Meanwhile, in Brussels ILGA-Europe has demanded the immediate release of Mr. Alekseev, who is the chief organiser of Moscow Pride.
“We are very concerned about Nikolai Alekseev’s safety and demand immediate and unconditional release of the activist by the Russian authorities and immediate end of intimidation and pressurising him to withdraw his ECHR complaints,” ILGA-Europe said in a statement issued at lunchtime.
“ILGA-Europe has been in touch with the activists in the region who confirmed Nikolai was still in detention as of 12:00 Brussels time. It appears the Russian authorities realise their inevitable humiliating defeat at the European Court of Human Rights and employ such desperate methods as intimidation, threat and abduction to prevent it.”
In another development in Russia, the opening of the St Petersburg’s Queer Culture Festival scheduled for yesterday was abruptly cancelled.
“ILGA-Europe is appalled by the closure,” the statement from Brussels says. “[We call] on St Petersburg’s authorities to respect the constitutional rights of LGBTI people to free assembly, association and expression and to ensure the festival goes ahead without any restrictions.
ILGA-Europe say it will continue to monitor the situation in Russia, and is “alerting European institutions to take action”.
This afternoon, the Lesben und Schwulenverband in Deutscland (LSVD) announced that they would be staging a demonstration outside the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Berlin on Sunday at 14:30 if Mr. Alekseev is not released by then.
“The LSVD vehemently protested against the arrest and the repeated attempts of intimidation of a brave LGBT human rights defender,” the group said in a statement this afternoon.SEE ALSO
For Coverage in German, see Queer’s Website
English Translation of Russian Gay Activist Nikolai Alekseev’s Account of His Kidnapping: As It Was ... My Abduction. By Nikolai Alekseev. On September 15th nothing could have prepared me for what happened over the next three days. (UK Gay News, September 19, 2010)
Russian Gay Activist: “I Never Was in Minsk – I Never Sent Any SMS Messages. “Abducted” Alekseev surfaces in Russia, not Belarus. “I never was in Minsk … My phone was taken from me two days ago …” These are the actual – and remarkable – words of Nikolai Alekseev, the gay Russian activist and chief organiser of Moscow Pride, who has surfaced somewhere in Russia. (UK Gay News, September 17, 2010)
Questions Have to be Answered by Authorities in Russia and Belarus as Doubts Emerge About Well-Being of Russian Gay Activist. Commentary. Has Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseev actually been released? And is he really in Minsk? These are questions being asked by Belarusian gay activists in Minsk this afternoon. (UK Gay News, September 17, 2010)
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