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Russian court convicts head of US-supported NGO for inciting hatred

[JURIST] A Russian court has convicted [Reuters report] Stanislav M. Dmitriyevsky [advocacy letter], director of the US-supported Russian-Chechen Friendship Society [advocacy website], of inciting religious and ethnic hatred by publishing editorial commentaries by two Chechen separatist leaders in 2004. The court handed down a two year suspended sentence for the crime Thursday rather than sending Dmitriyevsky to prison for four years as prosecutors had requested. Human Rights Watch has denounced the conviction [press release] as politically motivated and a threat to freedom of speech in Russia. The case [SRCF backgrounder] comes as a part of a larger push from the Russian government to limit the activities of advocacy groups in the country; critics of the Kremlin argue that cases such as this represent the beginning of a "legal campaign" against dissenting organizations in Russia. In January Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law [JURIST report] granting tighter governmental control of foreign NGOs in the country. The Russian government has been engaged in an ongoing conflict with the southern republic of Chechnya [BBC profile], and the Russian government has come under fire for the actions it has taken in that conflict. Last month The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe condemned [JURIST report] the human rights situation in Chechnya. Also, last February the European Court of Human Rights ruled [JURIST report] that Russia was guilty of serious abuses against Chechen citizens during its military campaign in the region. The New York Times has more.

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