MOSCOW, December 25 (RIA Novosti) – Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, banned in Russia on terrorism accusations, staged an unsanctioned auto rally in the Russian republic of Tatarstan, which saw Islamist attacks earlier this year, local media said on Tuesday.
About 20 sedans rolled down a highway in Tatarstan capital Kazan on Saturday flying Islamist flags, Evening-Kazan.ru said.
The event was to welcome home a Hizb ut-Tahrir member recently released from prison, the report said, without specifying the offense.
City police said it was not aware of any public event by Hizb ut-Tahrir, the report said. The rally ended before police arrived on the scene, local news website Business-gazeta.ru said.
Unsanctioned public events are an administrative offence in Russia punishable with fines of up to 300,000 rubles ($10,000).
Reports about the rally are based on a set of photographs showing a car column carrying the so-called “black flags of jihad” and their variation in white rolling down a snowy Kazan highway. The photographs first appeared online on Saturday on the Facebook page for Khilafah.com, a website advocating the ideas of the Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The movement, which advocates the creation of a global Islamic state, was designated a terrorist organization in Russia in 2003 and banned from public activity in Germany the same year, but was never blacklisted in the United States or other EU countries.
The group’s supporters have staged unsanctioned events in Tatarstan in the past, most recently in October, when about 1,000 attended an improvised rally that police chose not to disperse.
Though a predominantly Islamic region, Tatarstan saw no high-profile terrorist attacks during the spate of Islamist violence in Russia in the 1990s and 2000s. However, one prominent Islamic cleric of moderate views was killed and another injured in Kazan in July, with investigators blaming the attacks on local jihadists. Three alleged perpetrators were killed in a law enforcement raid in the city in October, though they were never linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir.