According to Notes From Poland, BEHEMOTH frontman Adam "Nergal" Darski has been convicted for offending religious feelings by a court in Warsaw. The charges stemmed from an image the Polish musician posted on social media showing a foot stamping on a picture of the Virgin Mary.
Darski was ordered to pay a fine of 15,000 złoty (approximately $4,000) and court costs of almost 3,500 zloty (approximately $942). However, since Darski has contested the judgement, the case will now go to trial.
After Darski shared the image on his social media in September 2019, an ultraconservative legal group, Ordo Iuris, and an organization called the Patriotic Society (Towarzystwo Patriotyczne) notified prosecutors that Darski had "offended the religious feelings of four people," including a local politician from Poland's conservative ruling coalition.
"In the course of proceedings, the aggrieved parties were questioned and they clearly stated that their religious feelings were offended," said the spokeswoman for Warsaw district prosecutor's office, Aleksandra Skrzyniarz.
Prosecutors also consulted an expert in religious studies, whose "opinion clearly concludes that treading with a shoe on the image of the Mother of God is an offence against religious feelings," Skrzyniarz added.
Article 196 of Poland's penal code says that "Whoever offends the religious feelings of other persons by publicly insulting an object of religious worship, or a place designated for public religious ceremonies, is liable to pay a fine, have his or her liberty limited, or be deprived of his or her liberty for a period of up to two years."
Amnesty International has previously called on the Polish authorities to repeal or amend legal provisions, such as article 196 of the Criminal Code, that criminalize statements protected by the right to freedom of expression.
According to Human Rights Watch, international human rights law permits states to impose certain restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression only if such restrictions are provided by law and are demonstrably necessary and proportionate for the protection of certain specified public interests (national security, public order, protection of health or morals) or for the protection of the rights of others (including the right to protection against discrimination).
This is not the first time Nergal has encountered legal problems in Poland related to his social media activities. Back in January 2018, it was announced that Nergal was being formally charged by Polish authorities in a case involving BEHEMOTH's "Republic Of The Unfaithful" tour artwork and merchandise, which was said to be "insulting" to the national coat of arms of Poland, a stylized white eagle with a golden beak and talons, and wearing a golden crown, in a red shield. Nergal and Maciej G., who, as the band's webmaster, promoted the tour online, were accused of publicly affronting the Polish national emblem, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison. Also charged was Rafał Wechterowicz, the graphic artist who worked on the BEHEMOTH artwork. Three months later, Nergal posted an update via Instagram, revealing that "all the absurd charges" against him were "dismissed."
In 2011, Nergal was acquitted in Poland on charges he insulted religious sentiment when he called the Catholic Church "the most murderous cult on the planet" during the band's September 2007 performance in Gdynia and tore up a copy of the Bible, calling it "a book of lies."
„Okoliczności czynu i wina nie budzą wątpliwości”
„Nergal” skazany na 15.000 zł grzywny i 3.453 zł kosztów za obrazę uczuć relig. przez znieważenie obrazu NMP - publikując zdjęcia zniszczonego obrazu nadepniętego obutą nogą.
— Jerzy Kwaśniewski (@jerzKwasniewski) February 15, 2021
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