MOSCOW, August 6. /TASS/. Believers should ask the judiciary to drop the criminal cases over the insults to their feelings if the offenders show repentance and regret their actions, Vakhtang Kipshidze, a deputy chief of the Russian Orthodox Synod’s department for relations between the Church and society told reporters on Monday.
"Churchgoing people and Orthodox Christian public associations, which file petitions citing Article 148 of the Code of Criminal Offenses [‘Violation of the Right to Freedom of Consciousness and Religion’], cannot put forward any other goal for themselves than the recognition of guilt by the people who commit outrageous acts on religious shrines," Kipshidze said.
"If a person, who is a subject of investigation, recognizes his or her guilt and publicly voices regret over an act of sacrilege, every believer then has duty to appeal for dropping the criminal case as specified by Article 25 of the Code of Criminal Procedure [‘Reconciliation of the Sides’]," he said.
Kipshidze recalled that the aforesaid Article 148 of the Code of Criminal Offenses "defends the believing people’s dignity against humiliation by whomever it might be and its presence [in the Code] fully conforms to the internationally recognized objective of defending the rights of citizens in the sphere of religion."
In June 2013, the Russian authorities amended legislation with an increase of responsibility for "insults to believers’ feelings". The amendments envisioned, in part, criminal liability in the form of imprisonment for public actions expressing explicit disrespect for society and committed to insult the believers’ religious feelings.
The first sentence under Article 148 was passed in 2014 on a 24-year-old resident of the city of Izhevsk, who uploaded a picture insulting the followers of Islam in the Internet. His was sentenced to 200 works of mandatory works.
In one of the latest cases in connection with this offense, Ruslan Sokolovsky, a blogger from Yekaterinburg in the Urals, uploaded a video with comments, which the law enforcers found to be insulting. The Sverdlovsk region passed a suspended sentence for 27 months in jail on him.