Russian court orders arrest in absentia of Meta spokesperson

FILE PHOTO: People walk behind a logo of Meta Platforms company, during a conference in Mumbai, India, September 20, 2023. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas//File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Moscow court on Monday said it had ordered the arrest in absentia of Meta Platforms spokesperson Andy Stone for two months pending trial on a number of terrorism-related counts.

Meta did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment, while Stone declined to comment.

Russia grew increasingly hostile towards Meta after Moscow sent its army into Ukraine in February 2022. Meta's main social platforms - Facebook and Instagram - were both banned soon after the conflict began and Meta was subsequently found guilty of "extremist activities" in Russia.

Russia's interior ministry opened a criminal investigation into Stone late last year, without disclosing specific charges.

Moscow's Basmanny District Court on Monday said Stone had been charged with the "promotion of terrorist activities, public calls for terrorist activities, public justification of terrorism or propaganda of terrorism, and public calls for extremist activities".

The court also said Stone was put on wanted lists both in Russia and internationally.

In March 2022 the Russian investigative committee said it has opened a criminal investigation into the "illegal actions of Meta's employees" and mentioned Stone, saying he had "lifted a ban on calls for violence against the Russian military on its platforms" and was thus inciting extremist activity.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; additional reporting by Alexander Marrow, Samrhitha Arunasalam, Katie Paul, Editing by William Maclean)

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