Friday, April 27, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Putin’s Office Responds Dismissively to Muslims' Open Letter to the Russian President

Paul Goble

Vienna, April 27 – A mid-level official in the office of Russian President Vladimir Putin has finally responded to the open letter Russia’s Muslims published in “Izvestiya” on March 5 but dismissed the concerns they raised about the mistreatment of the country’s Islamic community as ill-informed and misplaced.
In a letter dated April 5 but posted on the Internet only today, M. Ostrovskiy, the deputy head of the Presidential administrations directorate for domestic policy, said that the matters raised in the “Izvestiya” letter were currently being reviewed by judicial officials (
Stressing that the country’s courts “are independent and subordinate only to the Constitution of the Russian Federation and federal law,” Ostrovskiy said that if the Muslims who wrote the letter have “any concrete facts of the violation” of Russian law, they should communicate them to “law enforcement organs.”
Ostrovskiy’s dismissive tone continued: He suggested that Russia’s Muslims should “consider that in recent times there has been an increase in the number of cases when persons held responsible for criminally punishable actions who declare themselves ‘prisoners of conscience’ and ‘victims of persecution on a national or religious basis.’”
Such claims, the Presidential Administration official wrote, intended to provide a “defense” for what they have done, in part disorients society and forms non-objective public opinion. Moreover, they can “interfere with the review of cases and lead to judicial errors.”
He continued by suggesting that the authors of the open letter did not have their facts straight about the case of “ the ‘tearing down’ of the mosque in Astrakhan. It had not been torn down because it had not been built in the first place, since it violated local ordinances, a finding with which Central MSD head Talgat Tadzhuddin agreed.
And perhaps most dismissively of all for those Muslims who hoped for more from Putin, Ostrovskiy concluded his 400-word note with the following bureaucratic formulation: “We request,” he wrote, that you inform all those citizens who signed [the open letter] about the results of the review of your appeal.”

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