Prosecutors examine Chechen ban on Danish groups

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MINERALNIYE VODY (Southern Russia), February 22 (RIA Novosti) - Prosecutors are inquiring into a decision made by Chechnya's acting prime minister to ban Danish NGOs from the republic over the publication in Denmark of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, the Russian presidential envoy to the region said Wednesday.

Dmitry Kozak, the envoy to Russia's Southern Federal District, based his decision to refer the issue to prosecutors on Russian media reports; the Chechen government did not adopt any formal resolutions on the matter.

According to Russian popular daily Kommersant, the government of the largely Muslim North Caucasus republic sent a letter to the local office of the UN high commissioner for refugees February 7, informing it of the decision.

Danish groups reportedly suspended their work in the war-torn republic soon afterward.

Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's acting prime minister, said on February 6 that Danish organizations would no longer be allowed to work in Chechnya. His statement came against the backdrop of a wave of protests that swept the Muslim world after cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed were published in a Danish newspaper and then re-printed internationally.

"We will no longer let them [Danish organizations] in, precisely for that reason [the publication of the Mohammed cartoons]," Kadyrov said.

Some Russian MPs immediately responded to the move, saying that the acting Chechen leader had merely expressed his personal opinion, which could become legally binding only if an appropriate government body approved it.

Kozak announced the decision to refer the matter to prosecutors the day after Kadyrov met with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to discuss human rights abuses in Chechnya, which is struggling to revive its economy after severe conflicts, and to consider the possibility of re-launching humanitarian groups in the republic.

Kozak said that prosecutors were also looking into the legality of the introduction of compulsory studies of Sharia, Islamic law, and the Koran at local schools. He said the decision for this referral had also been based on two publications in Russian newspapers, adding that it was the job of prosecutors to check such information.

"The final decisions on these moves are to be taken by prosecutors," Kozak said.

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