Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: Plock Town Hall (wiki)
Three Polish LGBTQ activists were acquitted yesterday of charges of “offending religious beliefs” after they combined a poster of the Virgin Mary with a rainbow flag.
Polish authorities alleged the posters pasted up in public places in the city of Plock on 29 April 2019 were “offensive”.
They accused Elżbieta Podleśna, Anna Prus and Joanna Gzyra of “publicly insulting an object of religious worship in the form of this image which offended the religious feelings of others”.
“The charges should never have been brough"
Charges were brought against all three activists in July last year under Article 196 of Poland’s criminal code, which Amnesty International UK says 'gives the authorities broad powers to prosecute and criminalise individuals.'
Catrinel Motoc, Senior Campaigner in Amnesty International’s Europe Regional Office commented: “The charges should never have been brought against these women and it’s absolutely the right decision that they have been acquitted.
“They had risked up to two years in prison simply for standing up for LGBTI rights in a climate of hate and discrimination in Poland.
“Targeting activists with such absurd and unfounded charges is part of a much wider pattern of harassment and intimidation of human rights activists across Poland.
“The acquittal of these brave human rights defenders shows that the prosecution attempt was nothing more than an intimidation tactic by the Polish authorities. We urge them to stop using the criminal justice system to target and harass human rights defenders simply because of their activism.”
In recent years anti-LGBTQ sentiment has been on the rise in Poland, under the leadership of right-wing President Andrzej Duda.
This includes the spread of ‘LGBT-free zones’: over 90 municipalities, primarily in south-eastern Poland, that have officially declared war on what they deem ‘gay propaganda'.