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EU says artists are free to 'shock'

Nov. 1, 2012 at 12:41 PM

BRUSSELS, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- The European Union criticized Poland's supreme court for allowing prosecutors to try Adam Darski, leader of the band Behemoth, for illegal artistic expression.

At issue is the interpretation of Article 196 of the Polish penal code referring to "the crime of offending religious sensibilities." While on stage in 2007, Darski, singer in the heavy metal band, allegedly ripped pages from a Bible and referred to the Catholic Church as a "murderous cult," the EU Observer said Wednesday.

In a statement, the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, cited the European Convention of Human Rights' section on freedom of expression, noting, "This right protects not only information or ideas that are favorable received or regarded as inoffensive ... but also those that offend, shock or disturb."

Poland is a signatory to the Convention treaty.

Following European artistic controversies including the dispute over cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed and the conviction of the Russian band Pussy Riot, the Polish court Monday said prosecutors can charge Darski with a crime that potentially carries two years in prison, the online newspaper said.

"The supreme court clearly said there are limits for artists which cannot be crossed," said Ryszard Novak, former parliament member and member of the right-wing Law and Justice opposition party, but Jacek Potulski, Darski's lawyer, noted the decision by the court "is negative, and restricts freedom of speech. We are still arguing we are dealing with art, which allows more critical or radical statements," he said.

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