[JURIST] The Duma [official website, in Russian], the lower house of the Russian parliament, Friday approved legislative amendments to change the prevailing definition of extremist crime in Russian law to include activities taken for "political or ideological hatred." Opponents of the legislation criticized the amendments as an attempt to curtail civil liberties and hamper democracy by putting restraints on media coverage and discouraging opposition campaigning. Russian parliamentarians defended the measure as necessary to prevent terrorism; President Vladimir Putin [official website] has denied that the changes would be used to oppose a democratic power transition.
Under the new amendments, public disturbances "committed for ideological, political or racial motives" are punishable by a prison term of eight years. "Calls to extremism" can be punished by six years in prison. The new amendments will also grant the police additional wire-tapping powers. They now go to Russia's upper house, the Federation Council. AFP has more.