Shariah court in Russia ordered to close

Aug. 20, 2010 at 1:48 PM
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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- An attempt to create a Muslim Shariah court in Russia ended with its closure after just weeks in existence, authorities said.

Russian prosecutors ordered the closure of the court, which opened in St. Petersburg amid strong criticism from local Muslim leaders and human rights activists, The Moscow Times reported Friday.

The court, operating under Islamic law, had no judicial power and its activity was limited to civil disputes such as reconciling members of estranged families, founder Dzhamaliddin Makhmutov said.

"Our resolutions have no judicial power; what we do would be perhaps best described as honor trials," Makhmutov said before prosecutors demanded closure of the court this week.

Under traditional Shariah law, severe penalties for some crimes, such as the amputation of hands for theft and stoning for adultery, are prescribed.

"We offer solutions and advice rather than punishment, especially in a physical form," Makhmutov said.

Prosecutors said the court was in violation of the law and Makhmutov might face extremism charges if he refused to close it.

Makhmutov subsequently backed off on his comments about the court, calling it a "tribunal" instead of a Shariah court.

Many Muslim and non-Muslim leaders in St. Petersburg understood it to be a Shariah court and roundly condemned it, the Times reported.

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