Russian LGBT Festival Wins Appeal Against 'Foreign Agent' Status

"Eventually, justice has triumphed," the Side by Side organizers said in a statement.

MOSCOW – St. Petersburg's city court has canceled a lower court's verdict under which a local LGBT film festival was branded a "foreign agent" and fined $15,500 (500,000 rubles).

The court, to which the festival Bok o bok (Side by Side) appealed against the previous verdict, said that the law was applied incorrectly in the original probe, so the "foreign agent" status is to be lifted and the fine canceled. The verdict is final and the case is closed.

STORY: St. Petersburg LGBT Film Festival Branded 'Foreign Agent,' Fined 

The lower court's verdict came last summer and was largely viewed as part of a crackdown on gay activists and on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) with international contacts. Many NGOs were then branded as "foreign agents" and fined for not claiming that status by themselves.

"We are satisfied with the city court's decision," the festival's organizers said in a statement. "Eventually, justice has triumphed."

"We really hope that other NGOs, which are being persecuted under the law as 'foreign agents,' will be able to find justice in Russian courts."

Side by Side, which has been held in St. Petersburg since 2007, has recently been organizing film screenings and public discussions on LGBT issues in other Russian cities, including Tomsk, Arkhangelsk, Perm, Novosibirsk and Moscow.

Meanwhile, the festival's director, Gulya Sultanova, was also fined $9,300 (300,000 rubles) as a private individual under the same "foreign agent" law. Her appeal is pending.