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15 Dec, 2008 19:14

Parliament considers amendments to spying law

Parliament considers amendments to spying law

The government has submitted a bill to the State Duma that would amend the Criminal Code to expand the definition of treason and spying. In addition, the Kremlin has boosted the status of the commission for protection of state secrets.

The amendment to be considered by the Duma gives a broader definition of those to be accused of high treason and spying: these are people whose acts are deemed to be “against the security of the Russian Federation, including its constitutional order, sovereignty, territorial and state integrity.” According to the current corresponding law, treason is limited to “hostile” actions that threaten solely “the foreign security of the Russian Federation.”

Human rights activists and lawyers are concerned that the new bill could lead to accusations of treason against anyone who criticises the authorities, Kommersant newspaper writes.

The bill follows another one passed by the State Duma on Friday last week which abolishes juries in terror trials. Under the new law, criminal cases involving acts of terror, hostage-taking, illegal armed formations, high treason, attempts to overthrow legitimate authority, diversion and organisation of mass riots and mutinies will now be tried by a board of three professional judges. The approved amendments also harden measures of punishment.

According to some opposition activists, the law is directed not against terrorists, but against the opposition. Representatives of the Communist Party say that now any political action might be interpreted as a mass riot.