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Russia's Best Known LGBT Rights Activist Arrested
20 Sep 2010
By Dan Aiello
California Progress Report
Russia's most prominent advocate Gay and Lesbian rights was arrested September 15, at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport as he was preparing to board a flight to Geneva, Switzerland.
According to UKGayNews.com, which broke the story, LGBT activists around the world are concerned for the safety of Nikolai Alekseev because Russian officials are refusing to provide any information regarding his whereabouts or the reason for his arrest.
LGBT advocates in California issued an alert late Wednesday calling upon civil rights supporters to converge on the Russian consulate in San Francisco this evening.
Marriage Equality USA, a Bay Area-based group which advocates the right of same-sex couples to marry, has organized tonight's vigil at the Russian Consulate's Green Street location near the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.
"We are very concerned for the safety and well-being of Nikolai Alekseev," Christine Allen, one of MEUSA's board members, told California Progress Report. "We have been working with him for the last six months and are very familiar with his work for civil rights in his country," said Allen.
Allen told CPR Alekseev has been jailed frequently in the socially conservative former Soviet Union, including being delayed long enough to miss being honored in San Francisco's LGBT Pride parade as its 2008 Grand Marshall. So far, however, no explanation has been given by officials as to why the prominent activist was arrested. Alekseev was taken to a closed room at the airport where he was able to text friends for a short period of time before communication ceased.
A group of three fellow activists, led by Nikolai Baev, immediately headed for the airport to assess the situation, according to UKGayNews.com, adding airport police refused to give any further comment, saying only that "Alekseev is not here".
One police man did, however, suggest that Mr. Alekseev might have been transferred to the FSB, formally the KGB, headquarters on Lubianska Square in Moscow.
Ludmila Alekseeva from the Moscow Helsinki Group called the Main Office of the Moscow Police and was told that there is no track of the activist in their system.
Yesterday, activists from GayRussia announced that they had applied to stage a picket against the Moscow Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, on September 21 on the occasion of his birthday. The theme of the picket was "Luzhkov - gomiki".
Recently a Russian court confirmed that when the Mayor of Moscow called gays "gomiki" in the media, the term was not offensive. Gomiki is the translation of "faggot," according to the news source.
23:00 (UK) UPDATE:
In a statement from gay activists in Moscow, received by UK Gay News 90 minutes ago, the Russian border police asked Swiss Air Lines to cancel his boarding pass and to offload his luggage from the plane, causing a 30-minute delay to the flight's departure.
"[Mr. Alekseev] had time to call a friend as well as the news agency Interfax," the statement read.
"Reports of his arrest have been republished in the evening through the Russian media. As he told his friends and the media, no explanation was given to him on the motive of his arrest. A group of three activists from GayRussia led by Nikolai Baev went to the airport to try to locate Nikolai.
"The airport police told them that Nikolai was not retained by the airport police and one police officer suggested that he was being interrogated by the FSB (ex-KGB) at its headquarter in Lubyanka (Central Moscow).
"A recent law passed by the Russian Parliament, and signed-off by President Medvedev in July of this year, allows the FSB to echo Soviet practices.
"The punishment for ignoring a warning was unclear, but 15-day jail sentences are envisaged for "obstructing an FSB officer's duties".
"This new provision was denounced by human rights activists as an attempt to prevent human rights activists to organise rallies and public protest by pre-emptively arresting them. The headquarters of the Moscow Police told Human Rights activists Ludmila Alekseeva tonight that Nikolai Alekseev is not registered within their database.
"The FSB denied to answer questions tonight. No more information is expected before tomorrow morning.
"Under Russian law, enforcement authorities have no right to detain people for long periods without charges and without giving reasons for the detention, but this time has already expired at 10pm Moscow time," the statement concluded.
MEUSA members have tempered their elation over the recent Federal court ruling that overturned Proposition 8 with the knowledge that globally equal rights for gays and lesbians are under attack, from Uganda to the former soviet bloc. Even in Texas, the state's 2010 Republican party platform calls for the re-criminalization of homosexuality.
MEUSA leaders are asking supporters to meet at the Russian consulate gates at 2790 Green Street in San Francisco as soon as possible and claim the vigil will last through the night and until Alekseev is released.
After the email of the consulate became non-functional, MEUSA issued a request that supporters send requests for the safety of Alekseev to the consulate's fax number, (415) 929-0306. A new email addressed was just released for the consulate, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article taken from www.californiaprogressreport.com.