Verdict due in appeal over posters showing Virgin Mary with LGBT halo

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A verdict is expected today in the appeal against the acquittal of three women over posters depicting the Virgin Mary with an LGBT halo.

The trio were initially charged with “offending religious beliefs” for possessing and distributing the posters.

In March last year, they were acquitted but prosecutors appealed that decision.

Article 196 of Poland’s penal code states that offending people’s religious feelings by publicly outraging an object or place of religious worship is a criminal offence.

The punishment can be up to two years in prison if found guilty.

“This case is emblematic of a number of disturbing anti-human rights trends in Poland,” said Catrinel Motoc, Amnesty International’s senior campaigner for Europe.

“Not only is space for free expression, activism and peaceful protest shrinking, but the climate of homophobia in the country is worsening amid an increase in hate crimes, the introduction of LGBTI free zones by local councils and attempts to ban Pride Marches.

“It is bitterly ironic that an act of peaceful activism intended to highlight these trends has led to these three women human rights defenders being dragged through the courts with the threat of up to two years in jail hanging over their heads.

“The women have already been acquitted by courts earlier in March however the authorities are continuing this witch-hunt. Instead of prosecuting these activists for making rainbow posters, the Polish authorities should be respecting and protecting the rights of LGBTI people who face an increasingly repressive climate of state-sponsored homophobia. This appeal smacks of harassment and intimidation and the case should be dropped.”

Gay rights have become a deeply divisive issue in predominantly Roman Catholic Poland. Religious conservatives condemn what they say is an “ideology” bent on destroying the traditional family while more liberal Poles demand tolerance and equal treatment of what they regard as an oppressed minority.

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