MOSCOW (Dec. 2)
Jewish leaders and human rights activists in Russia are outraged by a sentence handed down in the case of a publisher known for printing anti-Semitic articles. Alexander Brod, the director of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, said activists would seek new opportunities to bring Viktor Korchagin to justice for activities that include the publication of a Russian edition of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”
On Nov. 24, a Moscow court found Korchagin guilty of publishing hate materials and gave him a one-year suspended sentence, which was immediately annulled because of the statute of limitations.
Boris Stambler, who has for several years tried to have charges brought against Korchagin, called the sentence “a mockery of common sense, facts and law.”
“Under the pretext of statute of limitations, the court has de facto acquitted Korchagin,” said Stambler, a Jewish veteran of World War II.
The verdict, which was welcomed by ultranationalist leaders, was the result of four years of court battles waged by Stambler and other Jewish activists.
“I feel a serious concern that the culprit was not punished,” one of Russia’s chief rabbis, Berel Lazar, said in a statement. “The freedom of speech should have its limits. One cannot cover up one’s actions by freedom of speech in order to abuse, and call for pogroms and deportations.”
Korchagin, appearing unrepentant, called the ruling a victory.
Two years ago, a Moscow court shut down one of Korchagin’s newspapers for publishing hate materials and calling for the deportation of Jews and other minorities. The decision on Russkie Vedomosti, or Russian Gazette, marked the first time that a media outlet was closed down in Russia under a media law that includes a ban on distribution of anti-Semitic and hate propaganda.
Despite the 2002 court ruling, Korchagin continued to call for a solution of the “Jewish question” through the deportation of Russia’s Jews in his other publications.
He is the founder of a small publishing house called Vityaz, or Knight, that made a name for itself in conservative circles by publishing the “Library of a Russian Patriot.”
The collection of 25 paperback books includes such titles as the 19th-century anti-Semitic forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a Russian translation of Henry Ford’s “International Jewry” and the writings of Jurgen Graf, a leading Holocaust denier.
The entire collection is sold through mail order for the equivalent of $10.
Korchagin also published at least two editions of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” that can be found at some book stands in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia for about $10 per copy.
Hate speech is a criminally punishable offense in Russia, although Russian courts have been reluctant to enforce the law.
Since the end of communism, only one individual has served a prison sentence for publishing hate materials, even though dozens of anti-Semitic and xenophobic books and magazines are being published in Russia, according to human rights watchers.