A Russian man reportedly faces as much as one year in prison for denying the existence of God. Viktor Krasnov expressed his disbelief in God on social media, according to his attorneys.
All of the social media posts in question have now been deleted from the web, reports NBC News. The Russian citizen faced charges of “offending believers’ feelings” in 2015 in response to his allegedly offensive online comments, and is now on trial.
“Offending believers’ feelings” was criminalized in Russia in February 2012, after the anti-government punk rock band Pussy Riot played a concert in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
“I don’t know how you can treat social networking posts seriously. Looks like we need a law to protect atheists’ feelings too,” Krasnov was quoted as saying by Grani.ru.
Krasnov was allegedly forced to undergo a month-long psychiatric evaluation while he was being investigated by Russian authorities.
Freedom of expression on the Internet has been increasingly restricted in Russia in recent years, reports Freedom House. A law signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2013 allows the state prosecutor general to block web content at its own discretion.
Bloggers and users of social media also stand to face charges deemed “extremist” by Russian authorities.
The anti-government news outlet Grani.ru investigated the handling of Krasnov’s case by Russian authorities, and allegedly found pervasive abuse of power.
“During the preliminary investigation the prosecutor’s office did not allow the protection [to] prepare my conversation in full. The investigation yanked out of it just my words, removing them from the context of the dispute,” said Krasnov.
Krasnov noted that while he faces a jail sentence from the Russian authorities, he believes most Russian people are generally sympathetic with him.
“On the part of society, I did not feel any pressure, only compassion. Everyone understands that this in our country can happen to anyone.”