Artist lodges European Court case against Russia

MOSCOW Tue Feb 22, 2011 11:00am EST

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - A member of a Russian art group detained since November lodged a case against Moscow at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Tuesday, the group's representatives said.

The group Voina drew attention last year by painting a huge phallus on a drawbridge near offices of Russia's top security services. They have pulled other similarly confrontational stunts aimed at Russia's notoriously corrupt security forces.

Police detained three of members of the group, Leonid Nikolayev, Oleg Vorotnikov and Natalia Kozlenok, in mid-November after police cars were overturned in a demonstration to protest against abuse of power by the force.

Nikolayev's lawyer Pavel Chikov said authorities had failed to provide sufficient evidence against his client. He added that they were not justified in holding the artist in pre-trial detention and had failed to submit the detention order to an appellate court.

"The investigators did not give any evidence to the court, only statements in Russian blogs that the art group Voina committed these actions and that Nikolayev is a member of the group," said Chikov.

The two artists are charged with hooliganism, a crime that could land them in prison for five year. Neither has commented on the accusations.

Chikov said that the detentions were "directly linked to the provocative actions of the group," adding that he expected Nikolayev and Vorotnikov to be released on 300,000 rouble ($10,250) bail this week. Kozlenok was released earlier.

British graffiti artist Banksy has called attention to the Russians' detention by offering to pay part of their bail by selling his art work, the BBC reported in December.

The radical performance group, which has organized public orgies, style themselves after anti-authoritarian Russian artists popular in the early years of the Soviet Union.

Voina's drawing of the 65-meter high phallus on a drawbridge that rose to face the St. Petersburg offices of the Federal Security Services (FSB), heir to the Soviet KGB, was nominated for an award by Russia's State Center of Contemporary Arts.

The piece was entitled: "A member in FSB captivity."

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