[JURIST] A Russian court began hearings against a renowned political commentator Tuesday, with prosecutors using expanded anti-extremism laws originally designed to combat racism and xenophobia but broadened in July [JURIST reports] to include activities taken for "political or ideological hatred." Prosecutors claim that several books by author Andrei Piontkovsky [fellowship profile; Jamestown Foundation writings], a visiting fellow at Washington DC's Hudson Institute [think tank website], incite violence against Russians, Jews, and Americans. At the hearing, prosecutors refused to give concrete examples of Piotkovsky's extremism, but referenced reports that said Piotkovsky's book "Unloved Country" was insulting to Russians because it contained a fictional conversation in which Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website] called opponents "shameful goats." Neither the prosecutors nor the reports explained where the allegations of incitement of hatred against Americans and Jews came from.
Piontkovsky, who denies the allegations, is a leader of Russian opposition party Yabloko [party website], and has described the administration of President Vladimir Putin as a combination of authoritarianism and "bandit capitalism." Investigations of "extremism" have also been brought against other Putin critics, including a human rights activist, a Russian newspaper, and a political analyst who was writing a book on Putin. The Washington Post has more.