North Caucasus separatist website ruled extremist

A website that has been the most powerful mouthpiece of North Caucasus separatists for over twelve years was labeled extremist by a Russian court on Monday, the Prosecutor General’s Office said.

However, the ruling by the Moscow Nikulisnky district court does not mean the imminent closure of the Kavkazcenter site.

The ruling only makes possession and distribution of the website’s content an offense punishable by up to 15 days in jail for individuals and closure of a legal entity for up to 90 days.

The court, citing linguistic experts from the Federal Security Service (FSB), ruled that many of the website’s articles justify terrorism and incite racial and religious hatred.

Kavkazcenter was established by one of the leaders of the Chechen separatists, Movladi Udugov, in then de-facto independent Chechnya in 1999.

Militants have used the website to claim responsibility for a number of high-profile attacks, including the 2004 Beslan hostage-taking raid and January’s bombing of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport.

Russian law enforcers have repeatedly sought to shut Kavkazcenter, which reports in Russian, English, Arabic, Turkish and Ukrainian.

The site’s owners moved it between several Baltic and Scandinavian servers before finally settling on Finland.

Finnish police refused appeals to shut the website in January, saying it was “not a terrorist site.”

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