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Russian art curators fined for controversial images of Jesus

Two Russian art curators were found guilty, after a 14 month trial, of violating Russia's tough hate-speech law. Some say the verdict protects religious values, but others decry it as censorship.

Yuri Samodurov, left, and Andrei Yerofeyev, Russian art curators who staged a 2007 exhibition that angered the powerful Russian Orthodox Church, listen to the court verdict on their case in Moscow, July 12. Both curators were convicted Monday of inciting religious hatred and fined, but escaped prison sentences. The two were ordered only to pay fines of up to 200,000 rubles ($6,500).

Mikhail Metzel/AP Photo

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A Moscow court' found two former museum curators guilty of "inciting hatred" against Christians. But some Russian analysts say the verdict will cast a chill over artistic freedom in Russia and encourage extreme nationalists to target a wider range of liberal voices.

At issue was a 2007 exhibition at the Sakharov Museum that featured "images which are derogatory and insulting to Christianity and religious people," which is a serious crime under Russian law.

Entitled "Forbidden Art," it aimed to challenge censorship and included several controversial images of Jesus – including one which replaced his head with that of Mickey Mouse, and another with the Soviet-era Order of Lenin medal.

Moscow's Tagansky court ruled that the former director of the Andrei Sakharov Museum, Yury Samodurov, and the ex-head of the Tretyakov Gallery's modern art section, Andrei Yarofeyev, "committed actions aimed at inciting hatred." The 14-month trial included more than 134 witnesses for the prosecution, most of whom admitted they had never viewed the art works in question.

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