Vologda newspaper editor goes on trial over Mohammed cartoons

Vologda, Russia - A local newspaper editor facing race-hate charges for republishing controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed will go on trial Tuesday, a senior legal official said.

"The criminal investigation against Anna Smirnova, chief editor of the Nash Region+ newspaper, was launched on February 19 after the February 15 issue carried an article 'Caricature Warfare: Opinions' featuring the 13 cartoons of Prophet Mohammed taken from the Danish press," prosecutor's assistant Nikolai Udalov said.

Preliminary hearings were held March 30, he said.

The trial comes in the wake of a row that swept Europe and enraged the Islamic world, after a Danish newspaper last fall published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. Muslims protested the publication, saying it was offensive to their religion, which bans any depiction of the prophet. The cartoons were later reprinted in other European publications, which cited press freedom.

The scandal reached Russia, home to 20 million Muslims, when a newspaper in the Central Russian city of Volgograd was closed down in February for publishing a cartoon featuring the Prophet Mohammed, Jesus, Buddha and Moses. A popular media Web site, Gazeta.ru, received a warning from Russia's national media and cultural watchdog.