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Putin-pranking rappers escape fines for Åland "gay bar" incident

Amidst plywood, colourful strings of light and some blue spray paint, the comedy rappers used the makeshift "gay bar on Putin's land" for a music video.

Ahvenanmaan lippu
File photo. Image: Yle

One half of a Swedish rapper duo, Simon Gärdenfors, escaped having to pay fines — and a possible jail term — for trespassing on Russian state property in Åland in 2015. The case was dismissed after a couple hours of deliberations at Åland District Court on Thursday.

The charges they faced stemmed from an incident in September 2015 when the rappers, known as Far & Son (Father & Son), went on the Russian-owned property to build a primitive structure, calling it "a gay bar on Putin's land."

It may not be widely known, but the Russian state owns land on Åland, and some of it officially belongs to the Russian presidency. That particular parcel has been under Russian ownership since 1947. Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia has introduced new legislation that would criminalise what it calls gay propaganda, meaning activities that openly promote a gay lifestyle.

When the shack-like structure was complete, the video production team took pictures of scantily-clad men dressed in construction worker outfits and shot their video.

Story continues after photo.

Appeal up in the air

The lean-to was christened "The Blue Oyster," in honour of the gay bar featured in the 1984 comedy movie Police Academy.

After the building was completed, Gärdenfors issued a press release, writing: "it is Russian land and in that case, one is not allowed to promote homosexuality."

The other half of Far & Son, Frej Larsson, wrote on Instagram that Putin was angry because they'd built the gay bar and brought homosexuals to his summer cottage property.

Larsson, however did not show up to court on Thursday, because he was never suspected of criminal activity.

"We've been called to court," he wrote on Instagram. "I feel a little like this; if Putin doesn't come, neither will I."

However Gärdenfors appeared for the hearing, testifying that he didn't have anything to do with building the structure personally. Instead, he blamed the production company, Swedish television channel TV4, which was in charge of the programme they were making.

The joke rappers and the TV firm appear to be embroiled in a war of words and counter accusations back home in Sweden.

Before the case was dismissed, prosecutor Henrik Lindeman had demanded that Gärdenfors pay fines for trespassing. Lindeman also said the charges had the potential to amount to a jail sentence of up to three months, according to Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet.

It is unclear whether the Russian state will appeal the case.

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