Russia’s upper house approves tougher anti-extremism bill
MOSCOW, July 11 (RIA Novosti)
The upper house of Russia’s parliament approved at its last spring session Wednesday amendments to legislation designed to bolster the fight against extremism.
The amendments cover the Criminal and Administrative codes and the law on mass media.
Among other provisions, the bill enables law enforcement officers to eavesdrop on the telephone conversations of people accused of any crimes, while the earlier regulation only covered suspects involved in serious crimes.
Another clause prohibits law enforcement officials from instigating people suspected of extremism into committing unlawful acts. Tougher punishment is also stipulated by the bill for crimes committed out of motives of revenge or as part of a vendetta.
The new version of the law also prohibits the media from publishing and distributing materials on extremist organizations without specifying that they had been banned or closed down by a court ruling.
According to the draft law, slander of state officials, including accusations of grave crimes, violence against officials and hampering the work of authorities, would be considered evidence of extremism.
The Russian parliament’s lower house, the State Duma, passed the bill Friday in the third and final reading.
The bill has yet to be signed by the president.
Wiretap Law Won’t Affect Law-abiding Citizens
MOSCOW. July 10 (Interfax)
New amendments to the law on wiretaps won’t affect law-abiding citizens, said Alexander Torshin, vice speaker of the Federation Council and member of the National Anti-Terrorist Committee.
“What is it that you don’t want others to hear, if you are not doing anything criminal?” he said speaking live on Mayak radio on Tuesday.
The State Duma passed a bill aimed at tightening resistance to extremism in the third and final reading on July 6. The bill gives law enforcers the ability to wiretap telephone conversations in suspected medium-gravity crimes, not just felonies.
“The practice is quite widespread in the United States,” Torshin said.
He said the bill passed in Russia “offers the chance to conduct this work reasonably.”
He said tapping is possible only if “a detective has been tipped off about preparations for an extreme crime or terrorist act.”
“The results of wiretapping will not go further than a particular investigator and will not be disclosed to the public,” the senator said.
Russian senator defends new anti-extremism law
BBC Monitoring / Radio Mayak, Moscow, in Russian 0816 gmt 10 Jul 07
Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federal Assembly’s Federation Council and a member of the National Antiterrorist Committee, Aleksandr Torshin, has defended recent controversial amendments to the anti-extremism law. He was speaking on Russian radio Mayak’s “Panorama” programme, hosted by Dmitriy Kiselev, on 10 July.
“In fact, these amendments were due long ago. I think they should have been adopted earlier, because the number of extremist crimes in Russia has been growing, and growing significantly. Human rights activists were the first to sound the alarm. Now it is a bit surprising to hear complaints about these amendments from some of them, because they demanded just this. It was they who were asking – why are police, FSB [Federal Security Service], the prosecutor’s office not doing anything? Why are they reacting so weakly? Why? Because there was no appropriate legal basis and they had no powers. They are in place now. Now you can demand more from everyone,” Torshin said.
“These amendments were very difficult to prepare. In terms of the difficulty of defining it, extremism is similar to corruption,” he added.
Presenter Dmitriy Kiselev said that the amended law contained a controversial provision giving law enforcement agencies the right to tap phones of “those suspected of terrorism”, pointing out that “suspected” could be a subjective term. Torshin replied: “A lot will depend on how professionally our whole law enforcement system works, and how investigators working on specific cases will be able to distinguish these issues themselves. The law sets certain standards, but it is not perfect. I have many questions about it myself. However, in the present situation this should be done”.
“Yes, phones will be tapped, but the results of tapping should stay with the investigator and should not be made public. As a matter of fact, I think we should be more relaxed about wiretapping. If you are not doing something criminal, what could be so important that you do not want them to hear?” Torshin said. “What about privacy and private life?” Kiselev countered. Torshin replied: “Well, privacy, OK, I might say something about my mother-in-law. Someone will hear it and will laugh, or maybe feel sorry for me. On the other hand, the way to look at this is that in the United States of America this practice is quite widespread. There was a scandal there when the current president was accused of violating the constitution when he extended the powers of special services. On the other hand, he [the US president] is right. If we don’t listen, people in another skyscraper may be killed, thousands will die, and questions will be asked – why did not you listen? Where were you? And so on. Therefore, this is a complex issue. I would like to say that the law allows carrying out this activity reasonably.”