San Diego, Calif. – Thirteen gay activists detained Dec. 2 at a Moscow polling place have been acquitted by a local magistrate's court.
Some of the activists had "voted" by writing "No to homophobes – No to Luzhkov" on their ballots.
Strongly anti-gay Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov was scheduled to vote at the same site an hour later. He banned the city's first two gay pride parades in 2006 and 2007, calling them "satanic."
The activists – including Moscow Pride organizers Nikolai Alekseev, Nikolai Baev and Alexey Davydov – were taken into custody by police and security forces and held for seven hours at the Tverskoi district police station for allegedly picketing without advance notification to the authorities.
But the court determined that no picket had occurred and that police were unable to specify a crime the activists had committed. As such, it also was illegal for police to detain the activists for more than three hours.
"This is our first considerable victory in courts in the legal fight with Moscow authorities and Moscow mayor personally," Alekseev said Jan. 11. "Lawlessness of the authorities can be witnessed during all our actions but up to now we never won in court. This is a positive signal."
He said the activists may sue the police for illegal detention and arrest.