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Russia court rejects ban on Hindu holy book

A Russian court in the Siberian province of Tomsk on Wednesday rejected a call to ban a translation of the Hindu holy book the Bhagavad Gita. Prosecutors in the case argued that a preface accompanying a 1968 translation of the text written by the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKC) [official website], commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement, was hostile to other faiths. They argued that the translation was in violation of Russian anti-extremism laws. The court disagreed, upholding the decision of a lower court to reject the call to ban the text. The decision comes just days before days before Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile] is scheduled to visit India. Indian officials have strongly criticized the attempted banning of the Bhagavad Gita. Last year, Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna [profile] characterized the case [ISKC report] as "patently absurd" stating that "we have treated this matter seriously and the Embassy of India is closely monitoring this legal case."

In 2007, the Russian parliament approved legislative amendments [JURIST report] to change the prevailing definition of extremist crime in Russian law to include activities taken for "political or ideological hatred." Since its approval, the Russian anti-extremism law has been used to ban allegedly offending materials in the country, including numerous websites. In July 2010, a Russian court made public a ruling banning access to five websites [JURIST report], including the video-sharing network Youtube [website], for what it called extremist elements. The decision came after a video entitled "Russia for Russians," also a Russian extremist slogan, was posted on YouTube. Other sites were blocked [Moscow Times report] for containing excerpts of Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf [Britannica backgrounder], which was banned by the Russian Prosecutor General's Office [official website, in Russian] in March 2010 after it was found in violation of laws against extremism.

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