14:43 15.04.2013

Femen activists could be imprisoned for protest at Notre Dame Cathedral

3 min read

Activists of the Femen France movement who held a protest at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in February 2013 could be sentenced to imprisonment and face large fines.

"According to an official response I've received from the [French] Foreign Ministry, they're being threatened with up to a year in jail and EUR 10,000 in fines for insulting religious feelings," the chairman of Russia's State Duma committee for public and religious organizations, Yaroslav Nilov, said in the program Eternity and Time on the Spas TV channel.

Moreover, they could also face up to ten years of imprisonment and EUR 200,000 in fines for damaging property inside the cathedral.

As reported, Femen held a topless protest at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris to mark to the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. They played a funeral march for the outgoing pope on the new bells of the cathedral, which were on display ahead of their mounting.

The protest echoed one by members of the female punk group Pussy Riot at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral on February 21, 2012.

A Moscow court found Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina guilty of disorderly conduct based on religious enmity and sentenced them to two years in prison each. The women refused to acknowledge their guilt, saying that they did not intend to offend believers. A third woman, Yekaterina Samutsevich, received a suspended sentence.

Recently, Femen activists were detained at a rally at the industrial fair in Hannover that was being visited by Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin. While the two leaders were standing near the stand of the Volkswagen company, several young women among the throng of journalists broke through a barrier, stripped topless, and started chanting slogans in English.

Press secretary of Russian President Dmitry Peskov called the action of the Femen group during President Vladimir Putin's visit to Germany a provocation.

"It was a provocation, a pure provocation," Peskov said on a Sunday night current events show on the Russia 1 channel.

Peskov said Putin had been aware of the planned action.

"Putin knew. The information was available, though, of course, nobody could have expected that it would be conducted in such a sophisticated, I would say, fancy way," Peskov said.

He said the president's reaction to the Femen protest "was absolutely understandable."

"He was bewildered how this could happen during a visit by a head of state," Peskov said.

He said that the host country should guarantee order is maintained during a visit by a foreign head of state.

"In this case, the rule was broken," Peskov said.

He said Femen's actions cannot be described as a form of protest.

"It was not a protest action but an escapade by foolish girls," Peskov said.

However, Hannoversche Allgemeine newspaper wrote that a criminal case has been opened against the Femen activists who carried out a topless protest during the visit of Putin to Hannover.

According to the newspaper, five women participated in the action: two citizens of Germany, one Russian woman, and two Ukrainians.

A case under an article on insulting state agencies and representatives of the foreign states has been opened. The article foresees a maximum punishment of three years of imprisonment, and up to five years in the case of slander.