A Moscow court has ruled that the controversial 'Innocence of Muslims' film contains extremist material, banning it nationwide.
The court convened after a case was filed by the Prosecutor-General's office, calling for the movie to be banned across Russia. According to Russian laws, any content can be legally classified as 'extremist' if prosecutors present sufficient evidence to make their case. After such a ruling, sharing the content also becomes a crime.
Upon presenting their case to court, prosecutors said they believe the movie incites religious hatred, thus "propagating religious intolerance in Russia."
The judge watched the controversial video, and called experts on culture, history and religion to testify, before delivering a verdict.
But while all the experts agreed the movie should be banned, human rights groups fear this could lead to unnecessary censorship of content.
Deputy head of Human Right Watch in Moscow Tatyana Lokshina said she has no doubt the movie is offensive to believers. But banning it completely, according to Lokshina, is contradictory to the concept of free speech.
The video was earlier banned in the southern Russian Republic of Chechnya, which allowed prosecutors to appeal for a federal ban.
The short film, satirizing the prophet Mohammed, has also been banned by Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sudan. YouTube access in these countries has been blocked -until, according to official statements, the film is removed.
Such measures were deemed necessary after the movie sparked international outrage and led to mass violence around the world, raging for more than a week not only in Arab countries, but throughout Europe, Australia and Canada. Over the days of the protests, which turned violent at times, over 80 people were killed and hundreds were injured.