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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Extremists Could Face Tougher Sentences

Legislators in the coming weeks will consider a series of amendments to the current law on extremism that would impose harsher sentences for those convicted of extremism, tighten registration rules for religious groups and clamp down on extremist web sites.

The Federation Council's Security and Defense Committee will issue recommendations to law enforcement agencies next month based on a wide-ranging State Duma hearing, which addressed increasing extremism in the country, committee adviser Mikhail Zarubin said Thursday.

At Wednesday's hearing, First Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Chekalin suggested increasing prison terms for anyone convicted of extremist crimes to a minimum of five years in prison.

At present, organizing an extremist group, for example, is punishable by a maximum of four years behind bars.

Chekalin also suggested punishing owners of RuNet web portals for hosting web sites that publish extremist content.

"We need to continue perfecting the law in order to prevent extremist instructional materials from entering Russia," Chekalin said.

President Vladimir Putin in July signed off on controversial changes to the law on extremist activity that critics say could be used to silence opposition politicians and the press.

The revised law expanded the definition of extremist activity to include public slander of a government official related to his duties, using or threatening violence against a government official or his family, and publicly justifying or excusing terrorism.

Supporters of the revised law argue it would allow the state to combat racist and nationalist groups more effectively.

But critics of the legislation, which sailed through both houses of the Duma this month, say it could be used to stifle opposition political parties during the 2007-2008 election cycle.