Transgender Italian held for second time in Sochi

Mon Feb 17, 2014 3:00pm EST
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By Catherine Koppel

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - A transgender former member of Italy's parliament was detained by Russian police for the second time in 24 hours on Monday for trying to stage a gay rights protest at the Winter Olympics.

Vladimir Luxuria said she was led away by two men in plain clothes on Sunday when she held up a sign saying "Gay is OK" in Russian in the Sochi Olympic Park and was held for about three hours.

She was allowed into the Olympic Park again later on Monday but barred from watching an ice hockey match because she was wearing a rainbow headdress - the colors of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement - and had a gay pride flag.

Luxuria said she was protesting against a law signed by President Vladimir Putin last year banning the spread of "gay propaganda" among minors. Critics say it discriminates against gays and that it has fuelled violence against homosexuals.

"I think it is important ...(to have) the opportunity to talk internationally about these things because otherwise these things happen in Russia and nobody knows, nobody cares," Luxuria said after stepping off the stage at a gay cabaret bar in Sochi.

"They think: 'Well, it's not in our country, it's far away, it's in Russia, who cares?'"

She said she had been treated with respect while in detention on Sunday but was told by the police that she could not promote pro-gay slogans in public.

The police and the Russian organizers of the Games said the police had no formal record of her detention. International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said: "We hope that the Games will not be used as a platform for demonstrations."   Continued...

Vladimir Luxuria, who entered parliament under the Communist Refoundation party's banner, sits at the tribune of the Italian Parliament in Rome April 28, 2006. REUTERS/ Alessandro Bianchi