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Russian Duma Backs Controversial Anti-Extremism Bill

Racist graffiti on the walls of St. Petersburg (AFP) July 8, 2006 -- Russia's lower house of parliament today approved an anti-extremism bill that human rights defenders say could be used to curb opposition activities and the media.

Supporters of the legislation say it will curb racist attacks.

Opponents, including major human rights groups, say it could be used to outlaw a range of political opposition activities and curb the independent media.

The bill expands the definition of extremism to include slander of public officials. Hindering the work of the authorities would also be considered extremist, as would involvement in riots, hooliganism, or vandalism for ideological, religious, political, or ethnic motives.

The State Duma passed the bill by 338 votes to 99. There was one abstention.

(AFP, Interfax)

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Yusuf Sultonov, whose 9-year-old daughter was beaten and stabbed to death in St. Petersburg on February 9, 2004 (TASS)

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