Offenders in Russia Who Insult Religious Feelings Face Jail Time

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Offenders who insult religious feelings in Russia will not only get a verbal backlash but could also end up serving jail time by up to three years. If passed by the Upper House and signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia's Duma expects it to become a law in July.

Spurred by a stunt by feminist punk band Pussy Riot in Moscow's main Christ our Savior Cathedral in February 2012, the bill stipulated that "public actions expressing clear disrespect for society and committed with the goal of offending religious feelings of the faithful" would be punishable with jail terms of up to three years in prison as well as fines of up to AU$9700.

Three of the seven-member band were apprehended. Each were given two years jail time for aggravated hooliganism. One of the convicted has already been released on probation while the two others, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, remain jailed.

Public desecration of religious objects or books are also punishable by fines of up to AU$6500.

Offenders will also be required compulsory correctional labor. They could also be deprived the right to hold certain positions or engage in certain activities for a term of up to two years.

"People who practice traditional forms of religion constantly face threats of various kinds. This includes the stunts by the Pussy Riot group, this includes the cemetery vandalism, and this also includes attempts on lives of spiritual leaders," Mikhail Markelov, deputy head of the Lower House Committee for Religious Organizations, earlier told reporters.

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