Friday, January 18, 2008

Russia's Extremism Law is In Effect

Clips from the Chicago Tribune's Alex Rodriguez article, "Beslan Moms Blame Putin, Face Charges":

With Russian President Vladimir Putin's crackdown on opponents showing no signs of relenting, Russian authorities have gradually transformed a controversial "anti-extremism" law initially meant for skinheads and ultra-nationalists into a cudgel against journalists, liberal commentators and opposition leaders, government critics say.

Now, in a bizarre twist, a local prosecutor in southern Russia is applying the law to the unlikeliest of targets -- mothers of children who died in the 2004 siege on a school in Beslan, the worst terrorist act in modern Russian history.

Their alleged crime? Slandering Putin in their request to the U.S. for an independent investigation into the siege.
Many experts believe changes made to the law in July 2006 were meant to muzzle government critics. The amended law's strength is in its vagueness, experts say. It includes under the umbrella of extremist activity any act that incites "social hatred."

"With the new changes that were made, any criticism can be considered extremism," said Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Moscow-based Panorama think tank. "Under the new law, any entity -- the Kremlin, the police, Russian intelligence agencies -- can be considered a social group vulnerable to acts of 'social hatred.'"

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