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Thursday, 11 December, 1997, 20:09 GMT
Chechen Islamic court bans all New Year celebrations

The Supreme Shariah Court in Chechnya has issued a ruling banning New Year celebrations in the republic, the Russian news agency Interfax reported on Thursday.

It said the ruling prohibits the putting up decorations in public squares, schools, companies and private houses, while people who set up a New Year's tree in their homes will face "administrative responsibility".

Under the ruling, the senior management of companies where holiday celebrations are allowed will be dismissed.

The court has written a letter to Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov asking for his assistance in implementing the decision.

Celebrating the New Year is "an act of apostasy and falsity," the court said.

"Christians deviated from the true faith, created a holiday, befouled Allah's prophet Isa (Jesus) and drink alcohol on this day," it added.

Senior Chechen officials have denied media reports that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has signed a decree on the holidays.

Neither Maskhadov nor the government "endorsed any documents on either celebrating the New Year or banning it," they said.

But Interfax quoted political obserevers as saying that Maskhadov is "unlikely to issue decrees contradicting a ruling of the Supreme Shariah Court".

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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