A transgender woman in Russia who was sentenced to three years in a men’s prison for child pornography charges has had her conviction overturned.
The 53-year-old woman, known as Michelle, was released on Wednesday and will have her case reheard at a district court, her friend Lada Preobrazhenskaya, who has helped throughout the legal proceedings, said.
It comes almost two months after Michelle was found guilty for the distribution of pornography depicting minors in nude anime drawings she shared to social media.
The charges were dismissed by Human Rights Watch (HRW) as “bogus”, with the group also expressing concern over Michelle’s safety serving time in a men’s prison, where she would be “extremely vulnerable to abuse”.
Michelle is legally recognised as male but has been undergoing her transition with hormone therapy for several years.
Her lawyers later appealed the sentencing, which led to Michelle being held in solitary confinement in a pre-trial detention centre until Wednesday, when her conviction was overturned.
It was not clear what led to the overturned conviction; however, Ms Preobrazhenskaya quoted a message she was sent from the lawyers as saying the case was “returned to the district court on the grounds of violation of the rules of justice”.
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Tanya Lokshina, HRW’s associate director for the Europe and Central Asia division, told Sky News the group was “relieved” by Michelle’s release, but warned about the steps yet to come.
“The case against her was not closed but rather sent for retrial,” she said.
“So as long as the case persists, Michelle’s rights to health, identity, expression, liberty and even to life hang in the balance.”
The rights group has also described the environment for LGBT people in Russia as “deeply hostile”, saying the community have “long faced threats, bullying, abuse inside their families”.
An introduction of a “gay propaganda” law in 2013 deepened this hostility further as the new legislation sought to prohibit the distribution of “nontraditional sexual relations to minors” in order to promote an idea of “tradition values”.
Source : Sky News