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5 Muslim Teens on Trial in Russia

July 10, 2006

KAZAN, Russia (AP) _ Five Muslim teenagers appeared in court Monday accused of involvement in a thwarted terrorist plot that prosecutors say was aimed at disrupting this city’s millennial celebration last year.

Activists and relatives say the trial is an attempt to frame the young men, who are among 24 defendants charged with plotting to commit terrorist attacks and create an Islamic state in the traditionally Muslim central Russian region of Tatarstan.

The teenagers and 19 adult defendants face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. All insist they are innocent.

Judge Ilfir Sakhilov, summing up the allegations, said members of an underground extremist group, Islamic Jamaat, had undergone training in Muslim militant camps, collected weapons and planned to blow up businesses on the eve of the provincial capital’s celebration in August 2005.

Defense attorney Aida Kapchurina said Monday that, since the start of the trial last week, ``no evidence whatsoever has been presented other than absurd confessions that were extracted by force.″

Rights activists say that the trial is part of a pattern of security services’ harassment of pious Muslim believers that is increasingly radicalizing young men in Tatarstan, where Muslims make up just over half of the population.

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