MOSCOW (Jun. 15)
Jews in the Russian city of Orel are expressing outrage at the recent trial of a local neo-Nazi — even though the trial resulted in only the second jail term ever issued under Russia’s hate crime law.
Igor Semyonov, leader of the local chapter of the extreme-nationalist Russian National Unity, was sentenced to two years in prison for inciting hatred toward Jews and people from the Caucasus Mountains.
The guilty verdict was based on a videotape of Semyonov’s public speeches in which he, among other things, called for “a real terror” against the Jews.
But Judge Alexander Kuznetsov refused to consider a 1993 leaflet written by Semyonov in which the author called Judaism a “misanthropic religion” and issued a warning to local Jews that a Chanukah celebration in their city might lead to bloodshed.
Jewish community leaders said Kuznetsov showed sympathy for Semyonov throughout the trial, which began last September.
“Justice wasn’t done. In fact, the court found nothing wrong with the anti- Semitic propaganda Semyonov has been spreading,” said Emmanuel Mendelevich, a local Jewish activist.
In the verdict, Kuznetsov said the defendant’s judgment about Judaism could not be punished since the Torah and the Talmud themselves contained misanthropic dogmas.
Semyonov was arrested in 1996 on suspicion that he and four members of his group allegedly murdered a woman and her 10-year-old son in Orel to obtain the family’s apartment.
After he was arrested, police found a list of hundreds of Jews and their addresses at his home in Orel, which is located 150 miles south of Moscow.
His four accomplices received 15 years in prison for the murder, but Semyonov was acquitted.
Orel Jews earlier expressed concern that anti-Semitic views were openly spread during the trial by some witnesses and experts.
In the trial, Vladimir Gusev, a Russian Orthodox priest in Orel, lashed out at Jews and Judaism in his testimony at the trial. Gusev repeated the infamous blood libel charge, testifying that in accordance with the Talmud, Jews “kill children, gather blood” and use it to make matzah.
Gusev was not the only witness to make anti-Semitic statements in the trial. A local Communist leader denied that the massacre of more than 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar in 1941 occurred.
According to court observers, all of these remarks were allowed by the judge without objection.