Russia: Imam sentenced for inciting hatred

A court in southern Russia gave a former imam a one and a half year suspended sentence Friday after convicting him of exhorting followers to wage holy war and preaching a form of Islam considered extremist by Russian authorities. Anton Stepanenko was arrested in January 2006 in Pyatigorsk where his mosque was located and where he allegedly distributed print, video and audio materials about Wahhabism, a term often used by authorities to describe radical Islam though it correctly refers to an austere form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. In addition to Stepanenko, the Pyatigorsk City Court said a second man, Andrei Grudin, was also found guilty and sentenced to a three-year suspended sentence on similar charges of inciting racial, ethnic or religious hatred. Stepanenko was initially charged also with kidnapping after he locked two people in the mosque's basement for 12 hours, having accused them of theft, but prosecutors later dropped those charges.