Legal Case of the Week: Dmitry Ugai

posted 15 Jan 2017, 11:23 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Jan 2017, 11:33 ]
On 9 January 2017 the trial began in St. Petersburg of yoga teacher Dmitry Ugai [also written 'Dmitry Ugay' in English] on charges of illegal missionary activity. RFE/RL reports that computer programmer and yoga teacher Dmitry Ugai was detained by police in St. Petersburg on 22 October 'while giving a talk at a festival about the philosophies behind yoga, a discipline for achieving physical and spiritual well-being.' RFE/RL notes, 'The 44-year-old faces a fine for allegedly conducting illegal missionary activity, an administrative offense under the new Yarovaya Law, a package of legal amendments intended to fight terrorism that is named after its author, lawmaker Irina Yarovaya. Signed by President Vladimir Putin in July, the amendments include restrictions on religious groups and missionary activity that could potentially put pressure on followers outside what the government considers "traditional" religions. The charges against Ugay are not criminal, but observers fear that a guilty verdict in the misdemeanor case against him would set a precedent for the harassment of even yoga instructors.'

The Moscow Times quoted Dmitry Ugai as telling the Meduza news website: “If I’m convicted, then it’s clear that the mere act of speaking publicly will be enough to find a person guilty, and they’ll be able to prosecute anyone just for practicing yoga." 

Photo: RFE/RL

Tom Balmforth, 'Russian Yoga Instructor Becomes Unlikely Spiritual Warrior As He Fights Counterterrorism Law,' RFE/RL, 11 January 2017
'That Russia Yoga Lecturer Is on Trial Thanks to a Christian Activist Whose Wife Left Him to Join a Sect,' The Moscow Times, 9 January 2017