Moscow Imam Arrested on Inciting Terrorism Charges

YouTubeMakhmud Velitov, the Imam of the Yardyam Mosque in Moscow.

Mahmoud Velitov, the imam of Moscow's Yardyam Mosque, has been arrested on charges of inciting terrorism, his lawyer Dagir Khasavov told the Interfax news agency on Tuesday.

Velitov was arrested on Tuesday by the special services and is being interrogated by the Russian Investigative Committee, Interfax reported, citing an unidentified source at the law enforcement.

Velitov's lawyer Dagir Khasavov told Interfax that, according to investigators, Velitov supported the actions of Abdullah Gappaev — allegedly a member of the Hizb ut-Tahrir terrorist organization — in an interview with an Islamic publication in September 2013. The imam has partly admitted to the charges, the lawyer added.

Earlier on Tuesday, Khasavov wrote on Facebook that Velitov's home was searched, and a large amount of religious literature was found that would likely be deemed extremist. He added that detention in solitary confinement is dangerous for the imam because he underwent an operation earlier this year.

According to Khasavov, Velitov has partly admitted to the charges, the Interfax news agency reported on Tuesday.

Khasavov told Interfax that “They [the investigators] are charging him for his interview on the Al Islam television channel and for one sermon which he conducted in the Yardyam Mosque.

The charge carries a prison sentence of between two and five years. In recent years Russian authorities have intensified persecution of terrorists and those inciting and justifying terrorism. Last week, a package of amendments to Russian anti-terrorist legislation, put forward by ultraconservative United Russia lawmaker Irina Yarovaya, were signed by President Vladimir Putin.

The package introduces a number of new laws, including restrictions on religious activity, increases the number of crimes with which children aged between 14 and 17 can be charged, and the ability to prosecute citizens for not informing law enforcement of terrorist activities. It also introduces harsher punishment for calls for extremist and terrorist activity.

See also:

Putin Addresses French Nation With TV Appearance

Russian Politician Yarovaya Lashes Out at West After Nice Attack

Russian Officials Condemn French Terror Attack