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The Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia: Democratic Party Deputies ask questions to the Italian Parliament

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ARchiv@L -
James Thomas Rook Jr. -
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1981

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Many NGOs have denounced worldwide the severe persecution of the Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses that is taking place in Russia.

This issue was also discussed in Italy in two important conferences held in the Chamber of Deputies, respectively organized by 

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on October 26, 2016, and by 
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 on March 22, 2017.

The current situation of this religious organization in Russia is heavily effected by the approval and entry into force of the controversial “Yarovaya law” that struck indiscriminately all churches other than the Russian Orthodox Church. An international chorus of voices was raised in recent months in defence of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Five Members of the Italian Parliament decided to add their voices to this chorus denouncing the serious violations of religious freedom of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 

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, at interpellanza1session n. 772).

On. Rostellato, Lacquaniti, Paola Boldrini, Oliviero and Tieri reminded that

"The Constitution of the Russian Federation -Art. 28- guarantees freedom of religion, including the right to profess a faith individually, collectively or to not profess any, to freely choose, have and to disseminate religious beliefs. The Constitution - Art. 30 - provides that everyone has the right to freely associate".

Moreover, Jehovah's Witnesses are legally recognized in over 220 countries of the world, their religious activities are peaceful and respectful of other people's freedom and of the law, according to the European Court of Human Rights, in more than 47 judgments.

Therefore, in light of the above, Deputies ask

"Whether the Italian Government is aware of the facts outlined in the introduction and if it intends to take diplomatic initiatives to raise awareness in the Russian Government to respect the professions of faith in the Russian territory".

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    • By Kurt
      RUSSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT AGREES THAT WEBSITE MAY BE RULED EXTREMIST FOR CONTENTS OF A SINGLE PAGE.
      Lenizdat.ru, 31 January 2016

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      A decision about ruling a website to be extremist on the basis of materials that are contained on only one of its pages does not violate the constitution. The Constitutional Court of the RF came to this conclusion. A similar conclusion had already been made previously by the Supreme Court.
       
      The decision was made in response to an appeal by the company Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York (it conducts economic affairs of the Jehovah's Witnesses). The organization is also known as the Watchtower Society.
       
      In December 2014 a number of Jehovah's Witnesses' materials were ruled by the Supreme Court to be extremist. The topic involved three books: "What does the Bible really teach?" "Draw near to Jehovah," and "Come, follow me." In addition, the decision applied to the entire website of the organization, jw.org, as a whole.
       
      "Recognizing as extremist only a portion of informational materials of an Internet site does not eliminate the threat of subsequent posting on it of similar materials," the court's decision says.
       
      Representatives of the Watchtower Society tried to challenge this position in the Constitutional Court, but, according to a report from Fontanka.ru, it was unsuccessful.
       
      "Not only individual informational materials posted on the Internet network and pages of the site on the Internet network may be ruled extremist, but also the entire website as a whole. The disputed legal regulation, conditioned on the necessity of guaranteeing the security of the state and the protection of the rights and liberties of an unrestricted circle of persons, may not be viewed as violating the constitutional rights of the plaintiff," the Constitutional Court's decision says.
       
      We recall that this is not the first instance when Jehovah's Witnesses have challenged the decisions of Russian courts. In 2004, a court in Moscow disbanded their congregation and forbade its activity. The congregation was found guilty specifically of recruitment of children, encouraging believers to break with their families, and encouraging suicide and rejection of medical care.
       
      In 2010 the European Court for Human Rights found this decision of the court illegal and required Russia to pay the victims 70 thousand Euros. 
       
      CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS APPEAL OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES ON MECHANISM OF PROHIBITION OF WEBSITES FOR EXTREMISM
      SOVA Center for News and Analysis, 1 February 2016
       
      The Constitutional Court denied the Jehovah's Witnesses who were challenging several provisions of Russian laws on combating extremist activity and on information.
       
      On 13 November 2015 the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York (the parent structure of Jehovah's Witnesses, registered in the USA) filed an appeal in the Russian Constitutional Court against provisions of federal laws "On combating extremist activity" and "On information, information technology and on protection of information." The reason for this was the confirmation by the Supreme Court of the prohibition of the official website of Jehovah's Witnesses, which was imposed by the Central district court of Tver in September 2013.
       
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      Third, the appeal points out that the laws do not contain procedures for removal of a website from the register of prohibited websites and the federal list of extremist materials, which leads to the restriction of freedom of speech.
       
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      --------------
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      BelPressa [Belgorod], 2 February 2016

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      The Jehovah’s Witnesses from all of Italy speaking the TWI language, will be attending their second circuit assembly for 2016 which will be held at the Jehovah’s Witnesses Assembly Hall in via Maleviste, 1 in Treviso on Saturday 23 April 2016.

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      On March 26, 2019, FSB investigator Sergey Bosiev charged Artem Gerasimov, who had been previously detained for interrogation during a search of eight houses in Alupka, Gurzuf and Yalta (Crimea), with organizing extremist activities (Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code). Another one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Taras Kuzyo, is also a suspect in this case. Both men were released after being interrogated.
      Read full text in Russian
      Case of Gerasimov and Others in Yalta
      Region: 
      Crimea
      Locality: Yalta
      Case number: 11907350001000041
      Current stage: preliminary investigation (pre-trial proceedings)
      Suspected of: according to the investigation, together with others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as organising the activity of an extremist organisation (with reference to the decision of the Russian Supreme Court on the liquidation of all 396 registered organisations of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
      Article of the Russian Criminal Code: 282.2(1)
      Case initiated: 23 May 2017
      Investigating: Investigative Department of the Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia for the Republic of Crimea

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Armed Russian FSB security service officers raided six Jehovah's Witness homes around Yalta, seizing religious literature. Artem Gerasimov faces "extremism"-related criminal charges with a maximum ten year jail term, the second Crimean Jehovah's Witness to face such charges. On 16 April, Russia's Supreme Court is due to hear appeals by four Muslims convicted in January of membership of the Muslim group Tabligh Jamaat.
      On 20 March, armed Russian FSB security service officers raided at least six Jehovah's Witness homes in the southern Crimean city of Yalta and the nearby suburb of Alupka. At least one of the FSB officers was carrying what appeared to be an assault rifle over his shoulder, despite Jehovah's Witnesses known for being pacifist. Officers seized religious literature, money and other documents, and took several people for interrogation.

      FSB officers seized Jehovah's Witness literature, much of which has been banned as "extremist" in Russia. However, they also seized Bible translations and a Bible concordance used by Russian Orthodox, Protestants and others and which the Russian authorities have not banned (see below).
        Crimean FSB headquarters, Simferopol Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  [ Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. ] The Crimean branch of the Russian FSB launched a criminal case against 34-year-old Yalta resident Artem Gerasimov. If eventually tried and convicted, he faces up to ten years' imprisonment. He has had to sign a pledge not to leave his home town as the FSB investigates the case against him (see below).

      Gerasimov is the second Jehovah's Witness in Crimea facing investigation under Russian Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1 ("Organisation of the activity of a social or religious association or other organisation in relation to which a court has adopted a decision legally in force on liquidation or ban on the activity in connection with the carrying out of extremist activity").

      One of the FSB Investigators refused to discuss the case against Gerasimov with Forum 18 (see below).

      The Russian FSB is still investigating the criminal case launched in November 2018 against 46-year-old fellow Crimean Jehovah's Witness Sergei Filatov. The launching of the criminal case was accompanied by coordinated raids on eight Jehovah's Witness family homes in the northern Crimean town of Dzhankoi involving an estimated 200 officers. One elderly Jehovah's Witness was tortured, while a young woman suffered a miscarriage soon after the raid (see below).

      In January, Crimea's Supreme Court rejected challenges to their legality from three victims of the raids (see below).

      Meanwhile, four Muslims convicted in January of membership of the banned Muslim missionary movement Tabligh Jamaat have appealed to Russia's Supreme Court in Moscow. Renat Suleimanov was jailed for four years, while the other three were given suspended sentences. The Supreme Court is due to begin hearing the appeals on the morning of 16 April (see below).

      The four men had met in mosques to discuss their faith and denied meeting conspiratorially or promoting "extremism" (see below).

      Suleimanov's lawyer told Forum 18 his client, who is 49, has refused to go to Moscow for the appeal hearing, saying he is too ill to travel all that distance. Suleimanov – who has been held since his October 2017 arrest - is still being held in Simferopol's Investigation Prison (see below).
        "Extremist" organisations banned

      Ukraine and the international community do not recognise Russia's March 2014 annexation of Crimea. After the annexation, Russia imposed its restrictions on freedom of religion and belief.  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.

      Russia's Supreme Court  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.

      Russia's Supreme Court  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  Prosecutors in Russia  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  Of these, at least 25 are in pre-trial detention and 26 under house arrest as of 2 April 2019. Others have had to sign pledges not to leave their home town without permission.

      Following Russia's occupation of Crimea, the Russian authorities granted re-registration to Jehovah's Witness communities in Crimea,  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.
        Raid, interrogations, confiscations

      On 20 March, armed Russian FSB security service officers raided at least six Jehovah's Witness homes in the southern Crimean city of Yalta and the nearby suburb of Alupka. Officers seized religious literature, money and other documents, and took several people for interrogation.

      FSB attention focused on Yalta resident Artem Vyacheslavovich Gerasimov (born 13 January 1985). FSB officers took him for interrogation to Simferopol, a two-hour drive away, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18.

      The FSB announced the same day that during the raids its officers had seized religious literature "banned in Russia", computers and other equipment and money, some of it in foreign currency.

      FSB video of two of the raids – released to the local media – shows officers in camouflage with FSB in large letters on the back of their uniforms and individuals in civilian clothes raiding Gerasimov's and one other home. One of the FSB officers raiding Gerasimov's home appears to be carrying an infantry assault rifle over his shoulder (Jehovah's Witnesses are known to be pacifists). Most of the intruders are wearing masks covering their faces except for the eyes.

      Officers place religious literature on a bed. Some of the titles are Jehovah's Witness publications, such as their "New World" version of the Bible, which  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  Others however are Bible translations and a Bible concordance used by Russian Orthodox, Protestants and others and which have not been banned.
        Criminal case

      Following the 20 March raids, the Crimean branch of the Russian FSB security service issued a statement to the local media. "It was established that a 34-year-old inhabitant of Yalta organised the activity of the local Jehovah's Witness organisation, conducted meetings, religious events and propaganda of the ideas of the given religious sect, as well as attracting new adherents to its ranks."

      The FSB announced that it had launched a case against one individual (whom it did not name) under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1 ("Organisation of the activity of a social or religious association or other organisation in relation to which a court has adopted a decision legally in force on liquidation or ban on the activity in connection with the carrying out of extremist activity").

      The FSB released Gerasimov later in the day after he signed a pledge not to leave his home town without permission from the FSB Investigator. He was allowed to return to his home in Yalta, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18.

      The criminal case against Gerasimov is being led by FSB investigators Aleksandr Lavrov and Sergei Bosiev. Forum 18 reached Investigator Bosiev at the FSB headquarters in Simferopol on 1 April, but as soon as it had introduced itself he put the phone down.
        First criminal investigation continues

      The Russian FSB security service is still investigating the criminal case against Jehovah's Witness Sergei Viktorovich Filatov (born 6 June 1972) in the northern Crimean town of Dzhankoi on the same "extremism"–related charges. He too faces a maximum possible prison term of ten years under Russian Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1.

      The criminal case –  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  – was the first against Jehovah's Witnesses in occupied Crimea. Like Gerasimov, Filatov had to sign a pledge not to leave his home town.

      "Interrogations of Sergei are continuing," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. The FSB security service commissioned five "expert analyses". Only one – to study the characteristics of his voice – has been completed, they added. This implies that the FSB has recordings that they believe are of Filatov.

      The FSB investigator Lieutenant Aleksandr Chumakin in Simferopol – who is leading the investigation of Filatov's case - again refused to talk to Forum 18 on 2 April.

      Five days after the criminal case was opened,  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.

      Filatov tried to challenge the case against him, but Crimea's Supreme Court rejected these challenges in November 2018.

      On 17 January 2019, and despite not having been convicted of any crime, Filatov was added to the Rosfinmonitoring "List of Terrorists and Extremists", whose assets banks are obliged to freeze (although small transactions are permitted).
        Crimean Supreme Court rejects challenges to raids

      Three other Jehovah's Witnesses whose homes were raided in November 2018 tried to challenge their legality.
        Crimean Supreme Court, Simferopol krymr.org (RFE/RL) Court decisions seen by Forum 18 reveal that FSB investigator Lieutenant Chumakin sought permission from Simferopol's Kiev District Court on 14 November 2018 for the raids "with the aim of finding items of significance for the criminal case" against Filatov. 

      Viktor Ursu (beaten and handcuffed during the raid and hospitalised afterwards), Liliya Bezhenar (whose husband Vladimir had to be hospitalised with a suspected stroke) and Vladimir Ostapchuk lodged suits against the search warrants on 11 January 2019 to Crimea's Supreme Court. However, in separate hearings on 31 January, Judge Alla Ovchinnikova rejected all three suits, according to the decisions seen by Forum 18.

      Anna Turobova from the Crimean Prosecutor's Office in Simferopol led the case in court to reject the three victims' suits. Her telephone went unanswered each time Forum 18 tried to reach her on 2 April.
        Moscow appeal for four convicted Muslims

      The appeals of four Muslims convicted in January on charges of alleged membership of the Muslim missionary movement Tabligh Jamaat are due to begin at Russia's Supreme Court in Moscow at 10 am on 16 April, according to the court website.

      The appeal is due to be heard at Russia's Supreme Court as it is the next level up from the men's original conviction at Crimea's Supreme Court in Simferopol.

      The four men met openly in mosques to discuss their faith.  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.

      On 22 January, at the end of their trial, Judge Sergei Pogrebnyak convicted the men under Criminal Code Article 282.2. This punishes organisation of or involvement in "the activity of a social or religious association or other organisation in relation to which a court has adopted a decision legally in force on liquidation or ban on the activity in connection with the carrying out of extremist activity".

      1) Renat Rustemovich Suleimanov (born 30 August 1969), Russian Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1, four years' imprisonment in an ordinary regime labour camp, followed by one year under restrictions.
      2) Talyat Abdurakhmanov (born 1953), Russian Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 2, two and a half years' suspended sentence, with a two year probation period, plus one year under restrictions.
      3) Seiran Rizaevich Mustafaev (born 2 January 1969), Russian Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 2, two and a half years' suspended sentence, with a two year probation period, plus one year under restrictions.
      4) Arsen Shekirovich Kubedinov (born 6 August 1974), Russian Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 2, two and a half years' suspended sentence, with a two year probation period, plus one year under restrictions.

      All four of those convicted lodged appeals to Russia's Supreme Court on 11 March. Two days later, the court assigned the appeals to a judge from the fourth criminal division.

      Suleimanov's lawyer, Aleksandr Lesovoi, told Forum 18 from Simferopol on 1 April that his client has refused to go to Moscow for the appeal hearing, saying he is too ill to travel all that distance.
        18 months in Investigation Prison already
        Investigation Prison No. 1, Simferopol Google/DigitalGlobe Suleimanov has been held since his October 2017 arrest in Simferopol's Investigation Prison. Until his appeal is decided, he is still deemed to be in pre-trial detention. During this time, each day of detention counts as a day and a half of his prison term.

      Asked if Suleimanov has access to the Koran and is able to pray freely in prison, his lawyer Lesovoi responded: "He hasn't complained."

      Suleimanov's address in Investigation Prison:

      295006 Krym
      g. Simferopol
      Bulvar Lenina 4
      Sledstvenny Izolyator No. 1
      Suleimanovu Renatu Rustemovichu

      (END)

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Sergey Skrynnikov is the second of Jehovah's Witnesses in the city of Oryol caught in the millstones of persecution for his faith. What helps him not to give up? What was his way to faith? What is his reaction to criminal prosecution? 
      Sergey first came in contact with Jehovah's Witnesses in 1973, when he was 11 years old. The family lived in a small village in eastern Ukraine. Under the conditions of Soviet anti-religious propaganda, his mother began studying the Bible with Jehovah's Witnesses. From her, then, Sergey first heard about God, about his Son and his Gospel. Since then he never doubted the truth of God's Word, this knowledge deeply embedded in his heart. But knowledge of the truth obliged him to build his life in harmony with God’s high standards. He was not ready for this at the time, and his life became a bad scenario. At the age of 25 he already abused alcohol, lost his job, lost his  family and decided to return to his mother in his native village, Manuylovka.
      How did Sergey come to this faith? His mother had underground publications of Awake! magazine, and she specifically left them for Sergey in the house. He gradually rethought his life, realizing that he heard what the Creator said, but he had not listened. So he began an intensive study of the Bible. He suggested to his mother to move somewhere far away from his drinking companions. They sold the house and moved to the town of Torez, where there was a community of Jehovah's Witnesses. Comparing biblical counsel  with his negative experience, he came to believe truth resides in the Bible.  In 1989, after a long search, he was baptized as one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
      Has Sergey's life changed for the better? As mentioned, because of his riotous lifestyle, his marriage to his wife, Nina, broke up, and they divorced. After some time, Nina learned from a friend that Sergey had become one of Jehovah's Witnesses—and could not believe it. But still she decided to write him a letter. This was the first step. Nina and Sergey already had a daughter who went to the first grade without ever really knowing her father. On vacation, they would visit. Nina became interested in the Bible's message and sound advice. A year later, in 1990, she too became one of Jehovah's Witnesses. She and Sergey decided to restore the marriage, because Jehovah, the God named in the Bible, is presented as hating divorce. So the Bible is credited with saving not only Sergey, but also his marriage.
      How was the further life of the family? Sergey is a physical education teacher by profession, having graduated from Bolkhov Pedagogical School. He taught at his profession, including the Oryol region. Nina is also a teacher. Somehow in her school a child was injured. Due to severe stress, Nina was paralyzed; for a year and four months she was bedridden. It was a hard time. One day, Nina suddenly said: “I want to go with you in the preaching ministry.” Sergey  discouraged her, but she insisted. So he dressed her, picked her up and carried her about 20 meters to their neighbor's, where he sat her down on a bench, and she started talking about the Bible with their neighbor. After 15 minutes they returned home. The next day, exactly the same but 30 minutes. Then an hour. And so over time, she began to walk. All thanks to the ministry. Now Nina is struggling with melanoma. Observed at the oncologist, she rejoices every day.
      Their daughter, Olesya, became one of Jehovah's Witnesses in 1994, and later married a fellow believer. When Sergey moved to Oryol to look after his wife's parents, Olesya and her family also moved with them, bringing four of her five children already born in Oryol. Sergey and Nina help raise their five grandchildren. Sergey calls Nina a devoted friend whose support is very important: "She knows by experience that Jehovah God is a caring and loving heavenly Father.”
      The large family adapted immediately when Sergey was arrested and criminal charges were lodged against him, alleging “extremism.”
      Speaking for the family, Sergey Skrynnikov said: 
      “When it all started, we were ready. Thanks to the care of Jehovah and loving elders, we were not caught off guard. The whole family quickly restructured and began to adapt to new circumstances. Nobody goes to extremes. However, sometimes in the depths of the soul you feel like a leper. You can not talk to anyone on the phone because of a possible interception. You can not go to visit your friends because of possible surveillance. It is impossible even to appear somewhere near the brothers because they will photograph us together, then the brothers will have problems. We live like in the Wild West.”
      Awaiting the court's verdict, the family said they all are eager to meet what God will allow. If He permits the government to sentence Mr. Skrynnikov to prison, it means that this is God's will and a new appointment for Sergey.  As his family sees it, millions of people are sitting in the prisons and have not heard anything of God’s Word. To quote Jesus Christ, “The fields are white for harvesting.” Mr. Skrynnikov says, "I am ready for everything and believe that my beloved God, Jehovah, will not forsake me. Every day he fills my heart with peace and joy, and it will always be so.”

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      After the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses* was considered to be an extremist one, and its activities were banned in Russia by the court, it became more difficult to defend them, rights defenders have stated. According to their version, the residents of Northern Caucasus, who have left the Islam, were especially suffering.
      The "Caucasian Knot" has reported that on April 20, 2017, the SC of Russia satisfied the demand of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to liquidate all the 396 religious organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses* in Russia as extremist.
      Rights defenders have faced the problem of protecting Jehovah's Witnesses* in various fields, including from domestic violence, Svetlana Gannushkina, the chair of the "Civil Assistance" Committee, told at a press conference in Moscow on March 28.
      In the course of the event, Ms Gannushkina told the story of a family living in the Caucasus, in which mother and daughter who had converted from Islam to Jehovah's Witnesses* were persecuted by the Muslim husband and father.
      An application from the mother of the minor daughter arrived in the "Civil Assistance" Committee about three years ago, when Jehovah's Witnesses* had not been labelled as an extremist organization. Then, the situation has worsened after Jehovah's Witnesses* became outlawed – now, rights defenders could not help the family, Ms Gannushkina has explained.
      "If they had converted, say, into Christian Orthodoxy, then, they could well turn to the police. But now they are believers of a banned organization; and we cannot protect them, because they can be accused of meeting their fellow believers, which is fraught with prison," Svetlana Gannushkina has concluded.
      With the help of the "Civil Assistance" Committee, the family managed to leave the Caucasus; now, the mother and daughter live in a shelter – a specialized camp for people who have no place to live, Ms Gannushkina has added.
      * The organization has been recognized as extremist in Russia, its activities are banned by the court

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      In February, a Russian court sentenced a Danish citizen who was a legal resident of Russia to six years in prison for such an extremist offence as organizing other Witnesses to shovel snow from their church’s property.
      A month later, Sergei Skrynnikov, a Russian and allegedly a Jehovah’s Witness, was charged with “participating in an extremist organization,” an offence under Russian law that could earn him up to six years in prison. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been fleeing Russia and seeking asylum in Germany and Finland to escape such harsh sentences.
      In China, state authorities harass Jehovah’s Witnesses and raid their meetings. Authorities also deport foreign Witness missionaries from countries such as South Korea.
      South Korea has only recently dropped a 2003 law prohibiting conscientious objection to fighting in its armed forces, a law that confined young Witness men — as well as other men — to jail.
      All these states violate international laws that protect religious freedom, including the freedoms of unpopular minorities. Article 18, 1 of the 1976 United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protects everyone’s freedom to “have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice” and “to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”
      A long history of persecution
      Jehovah’s Witnesses were among the first groups the Nazis persecuted. There were about 25,000 to 30,000 Witnesses in Germany in 1933. About half of those who did not flee were convicted of various crimes and between 2,000 and 2,500 were sent to concentration camps, where about 1,000 died. About 250 were also executed.
      Some years ago I met a Jehovah’s Witness in the city where I live who told me the Nazis had beheaded his grandfather. Germany’s Jehovah’s Witnesses were not merely passive religious group that refused to adopt the Nazi ideology: they also actively tried to expose Nazi atrocities.
      In the 1960s and ‘70s in Malawi, entire villages of Jehovah’s Witnesses were burned, and many villagers were raped, tortured or murdered as they tried to flee. Their crime was refusal to participate in rituals of loyalty to the newly independent Malawian state and its president, Hastings Banda.
      The Malawi government denied me a visa in the early 1980s when I told its High Commission in Ottawa that I wanted to know what had happened to these Witnesses for research for my book, Human Rights in Commonwealth Africa.
      Many Witnesses in Rwanda, both Tutsi and Hutu, lost their lives during the 1994 genocide, many trying to hide people at risk of being murdered.Even now, Rwandan authorities expel some Witness children from school and have fired some Witness teachers because they refuse to sing the national anthem or participate in religious training.
      Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Canada
      Here in Canada, Jehovah’s Witnesses have not always enjoyed their rights to freedom of religion and expression.
      During the Second World War, Witness children were banned from schools in several locations because they would not salute the flag, sing the national anthem or repeat the pledge of allegiance. A Witness father sued the Hamilton Board of Education on behalf of his two sons, who had been expelled from school in 1940. In 1945, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, saying the Board was required to excuse students from participating in religious exercises to which their parents objected
      Read more: 
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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      At least six homes of local Jehovah's Witnesses were searched by officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) on March 20, 2019, in the Crimean towns of Yalta and Alupka. A criminal case has been initiated against believers, citing the article 282.2(1), “Organization of the activities of an extremist organization.” Several persons were detained for interrogation. 34-year-old Artyom Gerasimov was taken to the republican center city of Simferopol.
      During the searches, computers and other electronic devices belonging to believers were seized, along with their Bibles. The case is led by FSB investigators A. Lavrov and S. Bosiyev.
      Earlier, on November 15, 2018, a major operation against the Witnesses took place in Dzhankoy (Crimea).

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      – JW Headquarters (19.03.2019) – Almost two years after the ban of their movement in Russia, 150 Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently under investigation.Already in 2019 Russian law enforcement has conducted raids on JWs in 10 cities in 6 regions (in 2018 Russian agents conducted 280 searches in about 40 regions throughout the Federation).
      Latest figures regarding JWs facing criminal charges throughout Russia:
      Pretrial Detention: 24
      House arrest: 26
      Ban on activities: 5
      Recognizance: 55
      Wanted: 4
      Another EU citizen detained in Russia: Andrzej Oniszczuk from Poland
      Andrzej Oniszczuk, 50, has been kept in solitary confinement for over five months, and is not permitted to lie down from 06:00 to 21:00. He is only allowed to take a shower with hot water once a week for 15 minutes. The administration of the detention center in Kirov refuses to allow Andrzej to have a Bible.
      For the five months Andrzej has been detained, his wife, Anna, has not been allowed to visit him and has only communicated with him by letter. She has submitted several requests to visit Andrzej in prison; however the investigator in Kirov has repeatedly denied her requests. Typically prisoners in Russia can have visits from close family members, so it is unclear why such extreme action has been taken to keep Anna from seeing her husband.
      You may recall that Andrzej was arrested on Oct 9, 2018, when local police and masked special-forces raided 19 homes and one former place of worship for JWs in Kirov, Russia. Andrzej is being accused of “extremist” activity for simply singing biblical songs, improving the skills of missionary work, and studying religious literature.
      At the outset, Andrzej Oniszczuk was forced to sign a document under duress wherein he agreed to refuse visits by the Poland Embassy, so the embassy was initially unable to contact/assist. However, after several requests by the embassy, they have finally been allowed to visit/assist Andrzej. The address where Andrzej is being held:  FKU SIZO-1, UFSIN of Russia, Kirov Region, ul. Mopra, d. 1, Kirov, 610004. Andrzej’s pretrial detention has been extended twice (now through April 2, 2019).
      A total of seven men in Kirov are facing criminal charges for practicing their faith. Four men (44-yr-old Maksim Khalturin, 66-yr-old Vladimir Korobeynikov, 26-yr-old Andrey Suvorkov, and 41-yr-old Yevgeniy Suvorkov) had been arrested in October 2018 and held in pretrial along with Andrzej. Yevgeniy continues in pretrial detention, however the three others have been released to house arrest. Two other men (63-yr-old Vladimir Vasilyev and 25-yr-old Vladislav Grigorenko) from Kirov have been under investigation since January 21, 2019 but are not yet under any restrictions.
      BIO: Andrzej was born October 3, 1968 in the city of Białystok in northeastern Poland. After graduating from school, he became a lathe operator. Andrzej enjoys reading Russian literature, especially Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, and Pasternak. In 1997, he moved to Russia and worked for himself in the city of Kirov. There he met Anna, and they married in 2002.
      Anna, Andrzej Oniszczuk’s wife, has agreed to talk to journalists (Polish or Russian only). Her phone number +7(961) 748 2088 (via Telegram or Signal).
      Sergey Skrynnikov under threat of three years in prison
      On the heels of the Zheleznodorozhniy District Court of Oryol sentencing Dennis Christensen to six years in prison, another one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Sergey Skrynnikov, also from Oryol is being criminally tried at the same court for his peaceful worship as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and a verdict is expected on April 1, 2019.
      On 18 March, prosecutor Nadezhda Naumova recommended that the Court sentence 56-yr-old Sergey to three years in prison followed by one year of additional restrictions for so-called extremist activity. Closing statements by the defense will be next Thursday March 28, with the court’s verdict will be at 10am on Monday April 1.
      For more information, please contact Yaroslav Sivulskiy in Russia: (ysivulsk@jw.org; call or WhatsApp +7 985 359 34 10; +371 2 0044105).

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Name: Yuriy Belosludtsev
      Born: [to be determined]
      Current status: [to be determined]
      Detained since: 18 March 2019 
      Current restrictions: pre-trial detention
      Currently held in: [to be determined

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      An EU citizen has been placed in solitary confinement, denied visitation with his wife and subjected to a grueling daily regimen while awaiting trial in central Russia, the Jehovah’s Witnesses told The Moscow Times.
      The federal penitentiary service of Kirov region did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
      Andrzej Oniszczuk, 50, was one of several adherents of the religious group detained in the Volga region of Kirov on extremism charges in October 2018. Russia labeled the Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organization in 2017, leading to raids nationwide and the sentencing of a Danish national last month.
      “Andrzej has been kept in solitary confinement for over five months,” Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesman Jarrod Lopes said in an emailed statement.
      Prison authorities prohibit Oniszczuk from lying down for 15 hours during the day, withhold the Bible and allow showers only once a week, the spokesman said. Oniszczuk’s wife has been denied several requests to visit him, Lopes told The Moscow Times.
      He said Polish diplomats were “finally” allowed to visit and assist the EU citizen despite Oniszczuk’s initial signature “under duress” to refuse visits from embassy staff.
      The organization said a total of 24 Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently held in pretrial detention in Russia, where 150 believers are under investigation on extremism charges.
      Lopes said in February that investigators in Siberia had stripped, suffocated, doused with water and applied stun guns on at least seven believers detained on extremism charges. Russia's Investigative Committee has denied the claims.

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Name: Volosnikov Sergey Vladimirovich 
      Born: 1977
      Current status: [to be determined]
      Current restrictions: [to be determined]
      Biography
      On February 15, 2019, there were massive searches in the homes of believers in the city of Surgut. This was followed by the beating and torturing of believers. Sergey Volosnikov is one of seven Jehovah’s Witnesses who reported torture.

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Question:  Why did Jehovah’s Witnesses  recently organize a worldwide letter writing campaign due to the persecution in Russia and not for other countries where there is also persecution?
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Based on official documentation dated March 1, 2019, the Russian federation has seized the Jehovah’s Witness administrative center campus worth $30.4 million US dollars. The property has been transferred to the Federal State-funded institution Almazov National Medical Research of the Ministry of Healthcare of the Russian Federation. According to a representative from JW, “the Russian government has schemed to effectively steal this property from our U.S. corp, claiming the U.S. corp’s ownership was invalid and that the property was really owned by JWs in Russia.”

      Read more at World Religion News: "Russia Confiscates $30.4 Million Property From Jehovah’s Witnesses" https://www.worldreligionnews.com/?p=59873
       

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