Russian court moves to ban anti-Islam film
29 September, 2012
MOSCOW: A court in Russian region of Chechnya has moved to ban the anti-Islam film that sparked deadly protests across the Muslim world, saying in a preliminary ruling it could destabilise the situation in an already violent region, officials said on Friday.
The US-produced film has led to massive demonstrations across the Muslim world although so far there have been no major demonstrations in Russia which is home to millions of Muslims.
A court in the Chechen capital Grozny ruled that the distribution of the film could have "serious negative consequences connected to the political destabilisation in the entire region", said a statement by the regional ministry for national policies, media and information.
The court ruling called the film "socially dangerous and provocative", said the ministry, citing its top official Murat Tagiyev.
The preliminary ruling was delivered on Thursday and came in response to a request by the regional ministry to declare the controversial film extremist, a ministry official told AFP.
Chechnya, in the Northern Caucasus, is predominantly Muslim.
The Kremlin, which fought two wars against separatists in Chechnya over the past 20 years, is struggling to contain a simmering insurgency there.
According to Russian legislation, the ruling of a local court will have to be enforced across the entire country.
"This is a ruling of the court that will have to be observed across Russia," said Ruslan Idrisov, an aide to the minister, adding that Russian media will be banned from distributing the online film.
However, federal officials have yet to explain how or if such a ban will be imposed across the country's Internet.
Google has so far refused to remove the film from popular online video site YouTube which it owns.
A spokesperson for Google in Russia told the state news agency RIA Novosti that the company would ban access to the film in Russia after it would be officially notified by a court that the film has been declared illegal.
Over in Egypt, several Christian families have fled their homes in Sinai peninsula after receiving death threats from suspected Islamist militants, officials and residents told AFP on Friday.
Last week, flyers began circulating in the town of Rafah on the Gaza Strip border demanding that its tiny Coptic population move out, residents said.
Officials at the local church informed the authorities of the threats, but no action was taken, they added.
Days later, a shop belonging to one of the families was fired on with automatic rifles, witnesses said.
The events prompted the families to leave Rafah but there were conflicting accounts over whether they had done so voluntarily or been evicted.
"The families have left Rafah and gone to El-Arish," one official said on condition of anonymity.
Another official denied that any Coptic families had left at all.
Representatives of the families, many of whom hold government jobs as well private businesses, sat down with the governor of North Sinai earlier this week and asked to be transferred to the nearby town of Al-Arish, the official said. The events come amid heightened sectarian tensions in the country, particularly in the lawless Sinai peninsula where the armed forces launched an unprecedented campaign in August to root out militants.
Father Mikhail Antoine of El-Arish church told AFP "the families moved voluntarily because they feared for their lives after the threats".
He said the Coptic population of North Sinai numbered 5,000 to 6,000, adding that around seven Coptic families had been living in Rafah before the move. It is not the first time Copts have been forced to leave their homes.