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Russian Prisons To Be Opened To Muslim Imams

A prison in Russia's Chita Oblast (file photo)

A prison in Russia's Chita Oblast (file photo)

MOSCOW -- Imams in Russia will be able to access the country's prison system and work with Muslim prisoners according to a new agreement signed between the federal prison authority (FSIN) and the Russian Council of Muftis, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

Mufti Rawil Gainetdin, head of the council, told RFE/RL that the agreement signed in Moscow on May 12 is a big step in improving prison life
for Muslim prisoners in Russia.

FSIN head Aleksandr Reimer said there are already 40 mosques and some 200 Muslim praying rooms in Russian prisons, most of them located in the republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. But he said there is a need for more.

Reimer added that previously every prison worked with Muslim officials individually, but the new agreement allows for cooperation to be more regulated.

Reimer said at the signing ceremony that "although convicted people are stripped off their physical freedom for committing various crimes, there is still a need to care about their spiritual lives."

Mufti Gainutdin said that a similar type of agreement had been prepared in the 1990s but was never signed.

The Russian Orthodox Church has become increasingly more active in the country's prison system, causing some uneasiness among Muslim prisoners.