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Novaya Gazeta: Religious leaders encourage retaliation against journalists at Grozny mosque meeting

The newspaper Novaya Gazeta has urged the Russian government to respond to calls for retaliation against journalists voiced, the editors claim, by Islamic theologians in Chechnya on April 3.

The meeting in the central mosque of Grozny was convened in connection with the publication of Novaya Gazeta’s article on the persecution of homosexuals in the Chechen Republic. According to the publication Grozny-Inform, 15,000 people attended the meeting.

Meeting participants adopted a resolution in which they declared that the Novaya Gazeta journalists had “insulted the centuries-old foundations of Chechen society and the dignity of Chechen men,” as well as their faith. “We promise that the true instigators will be subjected to retribution, wherever and whoever they are, without statute of limitations,” the resolution read.

“It is obvious to us that this resolution is pushing religious fanatics to massacre journalists,” said Novaya Gazeta’s editorial board.

Journalists demanded that Russian authorities evaluate the resolution “from [a legal] point of view” and urged them “to do everything possible to stop any actions aimed at inciting hatred and enmity towards journalists fulfilling their professional duties.”

Novaya Gazeta’s appeal was published on the evening of April 13. Soon, its website stopped working temporarily. “Technical support has informed us about a possible DDoS attack,” wrote Novaya Gazeta journalists on Facebook. The website resumed operation as of 11:30 pm Moscow time on April 13.

“Silence and inaction in this situation make all who are able to do something, accomplices. This is why Novaya Gazeta continues to work in Chechnya. But we are very aware of a high price we can pay. The unresolved murders of our colleagues Anna Politkovskaya and Natalia Estemirova serve as obvious proof,” read the newspaper’s statement.

In early April, Novaya Gazeta reported that more than 100 people were detained on suspicion of being homosexuals in Chechnya in recent months. According to the publication, detainees were kept in secret prisons, tortured, and forced to denounce other homosexuals; three people were killed. Chechen authorities called these statements a lie.

On April 11, Novaya Gazeta and human rights organization Agora appealed to a court in light of the inaction of Russia’s Investigative Committee, which did not respond to reports of the crime within 10 days, as required by law.

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