A court in Russia has ruled that the controversial film, Innocence of Muslims, contains extremist material, which entails its automatic ban across the country.

The Tverskoi district court in Moscow backed a petition filed by the Russian Prosecutor-General’s office to classify the movie as extremist. Under Russian law, extremist content must be banned.

Prosecutors said that the film negatively portrays Islam and “instigates religious intolerance in Russia”.

The court ignored objections by Russia’s human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, who argued that the case should not be heard in the absence of those who made the film.

In the run-up to the court hearing a group of Russian liberal artists appealed against banning the film. “The darkest forces of global terrorism are using this pretext to scare our civilisation and force us to accept their will,” the artists wrote in an open letter to Mr Putin. They warned that a ban would amount to “our great country bowing to the onslaught of barbarity, ignorance and religious fundamentalism.”

The court ruling can be appealed over the next four weeks.

Google has agreed to remove the film from YouTube in Russia if it is banned by court.

There have been no mass protests in Russia against the film and public opinion is split on the issue.

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