Court rules against Polish rocker who tore up Bible

Mon Oct 29, 2012 5:41pm EDT
 
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By Grzegorz Szymanowski and Christian Lowe

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland's Supreme Court opened the way on Monday for a blasphemy verdict against a rock musician who tore up a Bible on stage, a case that has pitted deep Catholic traditions against a new desire for free expression.

Adam Darski, front man with a heavy metal group named Behemoth, ripped up a copy of the Christian holy book during a concert in 2007, called it deceitful and described the Roman Catholic church as "a criminal sect".

His supporters say it was an act of artistic expression, but conservatives say he offended the sensibilities of Catholics in Poland, the homeland of the late Pope John Paul II and one of the religion's most devout heartlands in Europe.

The Supreme Court was asked to rule on legal arguments thrown up by the musician's trial in a lower court on charges of offending religious feelings.

It said a crime was committed even if the accused, who uses the stage name Nergal, did not act with the "direct intention" of offending those feelings, a court spokeswoman said.

That interpretation closed off an argument used by lawyers for Darski, who said he had not committed a crime because he did not intend to offend anyone.

The lower court will now decide if he is guilty. The maximum sentence is two years in jail, under Poland's criminal code. However, it is extremely rare for anyone convicted of this kind of crime in Poland to serve prison time.

"(The decision) is negative and restricts the freedom of speech. The court decided that this is allowed in a democratic system," Jacek Potulski, a lawyer for Darski, told Reuters.   Continued...