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Russia: Supreme Court Approves List Of 17 'Terrorist' Groups

Leaflets and literature disseminated by Hizb ut-Tahrir (archive) (RFE/RL) PRAGUE, July 28, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Russia today published a list of 17 organizations that it said had been identified as "terrorist" by the national Supreme Court.

Yury Sapunov, the head of antiterrorism at the Federal Security Service (FSB), said all 17 groups were seen as a threat to the Russian state.

The publication today in the governmental "Rossiiskaya gazeta" of what Sapunov calls the only official Russian list of terrorist organizations contains few surprises.

But it will raise a few eyebrows -- at least in the West -- for some names that are missing.

No mention here, for instance, of either Hamas or Hizballah, both of which are at the center of world attention at the moment and both of which rank high on most Western lists of terrorist organizations.

Threats To The State

Sapunov said Russia took into account the views of the international community but said the 17 were primarily a national list of organizations that the Supreme Court considered the greatest threat to the security of the state.

Russia risked the ire of Washington by inviting Hamas leaders to Moscow for talks after they won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January this year.

Sapunov said that neither Hamas nor Hizballah were universally regarded as terrorist.

But the main reason they do not figure on the list, he said, was because they were not trying to change Russia's constitutional order through violence and were not linked to illegal armed groups and other extremist organizations operating in the North Caucasus.

These, he said, were the main criteria used in deciding which organizations to include.

Almost all the groups listed, he said, were linked in one way or another to the Muslim Brotherhood, including Hizb ut-Tahrir, which seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate stretching from Central Asia to the Caucasus.

Misdirected Accusations?

Rights campaigner Lev Ponomaryov says the inclusion of Hizb ut-Tahrir is just an extension of the deep suspicion its members arouse, despite the group's official rejection of the use of violence to achieve its ends.

Ponomaryov says he knows dozens of Hizb ut-Tahrir members who have been jailed on what he says are trumped-up criminal charges.

"As a rule, drugs and gun cartridges and the like are planted on them," Ponomaryov said. "And now, in addition to all that, they're being accused of being members of a terrorist group. I can assure you that there has not been a not a single accusation directed at Islamic Liberation (Hizb ut-Tahrir) that they've committed a terrorist act in Russia, or have even attempted to organize one."

Other organizations on the Russian list include the Congress of Peoples of Ichkheria and Daghestan, the Supreme Military Majlis Shura of the United Forces of the Mujahedin of the Caucasus, Jamiya al-Islamiya, the Islamic Party of Turkestan, and the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Changing Face Of Terrorism

Sapunov said part of the problem with any list was that the groups keep changing their names.

Not, he added, that that was fooling the security services.

Increased international cooperation, the support of President Vladimir Putin and the government, and the creation of the National Antiterrorist Center had made it possible at last to establish an overall strategy for combating terrorism.

(RFE/RL's Tajik Service contributed to this report.)

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