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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      On May 24, 2019, Markus Grübel, the German Commissioner for Global Freedom of Religion, spoke in connection with the fact that the Russian appellate court upheld the sentence of Dennis Christensen. “I regret the decision of the court that rejected the appeal in the case of Christensen,” said Markus Grübel. “I am concerned about the situation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. Freedom of religion and ideology is an important human right. Every state should respect it. Religious freedom is indivisible and is valid for all religious communities.”
      https://www.jw-russia.org/en/news/19061216-931.html

    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Letters of support to Dennis Christensen can be sent to the Penal Colony #3 in the Kursk Region located: Primakova Street, 23A, Lgov, Kursk Region, 307754, Russian Federation. Emails are also accepted via the “FSIN-letter” system.

      https://jw-russia.org/en/news/19061115-921.html
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      El tribunal de la región rusa de Oriol confirmó este 23 de mayo del 2019 la pena de 6 años de prisión al danés Dennis Christensen, seguidor de Testigos de Jehová, culto prohibido en Rusia en 2017.
      El danés, de 46 años, de los cuales 20 con residencia en Rusia, fue condenado en febrero de ese año tras ser declarado culpable de extremismo por ser miembro activo de Testigos de Jehová, y el tribunal regional desestimó este jueves 23 de mayo la apelación presentada por su defensa.

      “Aquellos que saben qué ocurre con los Testigos de Jehová en Rusia deben sentir vergüenza por su país. En el siglo XXI en un Estado de derecho son inadmisibles las acusaciones y delaciones falsas, así como las torturas”, declaró Christensen en su último alegato antes de que el tribunal rechazara la apelación.

      El danés aseguró que fue condenado solo por ejercer la libertad de culto, derecho consagrado en la Constitución de Rusia. La defensa de Christensen anunció que recurrirá la decisión en instancias superiores.

      “La decisión de las autoridades rusas de dejar en vigor esta condena es un atentado contra el derecho a la libertad de culto y de reunión”, denunció la investigadora de Amnistía Internacional (AI).

      Según AI, la decisión de Rusia de considerar Testigos de Jehová como organización extremista es una grave violación a la libertad de culto. En el país se han abierto 74 causas penales contra quienes siguen esta religión, con un total de 188 imputados.
      https://www.ultimasnoticias.ec/las-ultimas/testigo-jehova-culpable-extremismo-rusia.html
       
       

    • By The Librarian
      showing the letters of encouragement that he has received while in jail
    • By Witness
      The person who made this short quip was never a JW, although he is able to perceive the contradiction of teachings by the governing body.  
      Can you perceive the confusion?  (meaning of "Babylon")
       
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Mientras el mundo condena el hecho de que en Rusia se sentencia a Testigos de Jehová a duras penas de cárcel por el único crimen de practicar su fe, China aplaude dicha persecución.
      Massimo Introvigne
      El 6 de febrero de 2018, un tribunal ruso condenó al ciudadano danés Dennis Christensen a seis años de cárcel por participar en actividades de los Testigos de Jehová, un grupo prohibido en Rusia. Luego de la condena de Christensen, la policía está implementando una nueva ola represiva en varias provincias rusas, arrestando a más Testigos de Jehová. En Rusia, los Testigos de Jehová fueron “liquidados” en el año 2017 bajo acusaciones de “extremismo”. Las reacciones de organizaciones internacionales y países democráticos contra estas decisiones han sido unánimes, desde el Departamento de Estado de los Estados Unidos hasta la Unión Europea, la cual solicitó que “el Sr. Christensen sea liberado de forma inmediata e incondicional” y que los Testigos de Jehová “puedan disfrutar pacíficamente de la libertad de asambleasin injerencias, tal y como lo garantiza la Constitución de la Federación Rusa, así como también los compromisos internacionales efectuados por Rusia y las normas internacionales de derechos humanos”.
      No obstante, Rusia puede contar con un aliado “inmediato e incondicional”, China. El Partido Comunista Chino (PCCh) es consciente de que la noción de “movimientos religiosos extremistas” es sustancialmente la misma que la categoría de xie jiao en China.
      Tal y como señaló el académico procedente de Hong Kong, Ed Irons, en China, el “sitio web chino antisectas” es considerado como la voz del PCCh en lo que respecta a temas relacionados con cualquier grupo identificado como una “secta”, y sus declaraciones gozan de un estatus semioficial. Mientras el mundo esperaba la sentencia de Christensen, este sitio web relacionado con el PCCh publicó un detallado artículo en apoyo de la posición rusa con respecto a los Testigos de Jehová. “Es razonable que los Testigos de Jehová sean estrictamente controlados o incluso completamente prohibidos” (“耶和华见证人”受到严厉控制甚至全面取缔乃属情理之中), afirmaba el artículo. El mismo mencionaba una lista interminable de acusaciones de naturaleza antisectaria contra los Testigos de Jehová.
      Existe una diferencia entre la persecución rusa de “grupos extremistas” y la represión china llevada a cabo contra los xie jiao. Mientras el PCCh intenta protegerse a sí mismo contra cualquier posible amenaza proveniente de movimientos religiosos que considera hostiles al Partido, Rusia intenta proteger la posición monopolística de la Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa, un aliado incondicional del régimen, contra cualquier competencia no deseada.
      El sitio web chino antisectas no parece apreciar completamente esta diferencia. El sitio apoya la postura rusa que afirma que los testigos de Jehová deben ser prohibidos porque “amenazan a la religión rusa predominante: la reputación y el entorno vital de la Iglesia Ortodoxa” (而且威胁着俄罗斯主流宗教——东正教的声誉和生存环境) y porque están “erosionando los cimientos de la Iglesia Ortodoxa” (也在明显侵蚀着东正教的根基). El hecho de que la Iglesia Ortodoxa deba ser protegida de sus críticos es un comentario curioso en una publicación realizada por el PCCh, a pesar de que dentro del PCCh hay quienes argumentan de manera similar que el monopolio de la fe cristiana protestante de la Iglesia de las Tres Autonomías controlada por el PCCh debería ser igualmente protegido.
      En China existe una presencia clandestina de Testigos de Jehová, con cifras difíciles de evaluar. Los mismos no están incluidos en la lista de xie jiao, pero sus actividades son consideradas ilegales y Bitter Winter ha informado sobre medidas enérgicas implementadas contra actividades misioneras de los Testigos de Jehová que llegan a China desde Corea.
      https://es.bitterwinter.org/china-apoya-la-persecucion-de-los-testigos-de-jehova-llevada-a-cabo-por-rusia/
    • By The Librarian
      and for our many brothers and sisters in Russia as they continue to "remain calm and show confidence" in Jehovah. Isaiah 30:15 The whole world is praying for you dear brother!
    • By The Librarian
      It did not help him at all. The help of their lawyers, either. Everything was decided in advance.
    • By Outta Here
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-45815889
      This takes the proverbial biscuit. These are guys that plant Jehovah's Witness publications on................Jehovah's Witnesses!!!
      They might be in for a decoration!
    • By El Bibliotecario
      He is very ill.
      Here he is seen being led to the courtroom.
    • By Srecko Sostar
      3) We do not lobby, vote in political elections, run for government office, or try to change governments. …Otherwise, how could we have a clean conscience when we preach the good news that only God’s Kingdom can solve mankind’s problems? source: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2016288#h=36
       
      lobby verb [ I or T ]  UK  /ˈlɒb.i/ US  /ˈlɑː.bi/
      C2 to try to persuade a politician, the government, or an official group that a particular thing should or should not happen, or that a law should be changed:
      https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/lobby
       
      Recent example how WT Company and JW members participated in "lobbying" was writing letters to Russian Government and their politicians. 
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      More than 200 Jehovah's Witnesses - a religious organization banned in Russia - have applied for asylum in Finland. More than 100 members of this organization have arrived in the European country only so far in 2018. According to Juha Simila, representative of the Finnish migration service, about 10 cases have been analyzed so far and, in most of them, Finland rejected the asylum application. Simila explained to the Finnish newspaper Aamulehti that some denials have been appealed to the court and that in one of the cases the negative decision of the migration service has already been confirmed.
      Read more: https://mundo.sputniknews.com/religion/201808221081407393-testigos-jehova-rusos-piden-asilo-en-finlandia/
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Many of the children described conditions at US Customs and Border Protection facilities, where they were taken and processed during the first days after crossing the border. In the reports they were only identified by their first names. Timofei, 15, from Russia, who sought asylum on the border with his parents for his beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses, said they were crowded night and day in the closed and crowded room, detained along with other boys. He said there was only one window that opened onto an empty hallway and that they did not have soap in the bathroom, and that only sometimes, they gave him a toothbrush for individual use. He also said that he was offered a shower when he arrived at the facilities in San Ysidro, California, but he did not and the second or third day there did not allow him to do so.
      https://www.clarin.com/mundo/trataron-chicos-separados-padres-frontera-relatan-dias-detenidos-unidos_0_SJh7dyam7.html
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      (Moscow) – Law enforcement authorities across Russia have carried out a sweeping campaign against JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in recent months, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities have carried out dozens of home searches, raids, interrogations, and other acts of harassment and persecution.
      The authorities are holding 18 men in pretrial detention on charges of organizing, participating in, or financing the activities of an “extremist organization” solely for their religious activities. Several others are facing the same charges and are under house arrest or subject to travel restrictions. The charges carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence. Russian authorities should release those in detention immediately, drop the charges, and halt the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
      “The Jehovah’s Witnesses are simply peacefully exercising their right to freedom of religion,” said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Jehovah’s Witness faith is not an extremist organization, and authorities should stop this religious persecution of its worshipers now.”
      Human Rights Watch interviewed four lawyers defending JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in five regions and a representative of the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses. Human Rights Watch also reviewed court documents, media reports, Russian government statements, and Federal Security Service (FSB) photos and videos purporting to show the raids.
      The raids and arrests stem from an April 2017 Russian Supreme Courtruling that banned all Jehovah’s Witnesses organizations throughout Russia. The ruling declared the Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Center, the head office for 395 Jehovah’s Witnesses branches throughout Russia, an extremist organization and ruled that all 395 be shut down. The ruling, which affects more than 100,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses across Russia, blatantly violates Russia’s obligations to respect and protect religious freedom and freedom of association.
      Russian authorities should reverse the ban on the organization’s activities and remove the “extremist” designation, Human Rights Watch said. Meanwhile, they should leave Jehovah’s Witnesses free to practice their faith.
      Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and other former USSR countries have faced persecution in the past. During the Soviet era, they were arrested and imprisoned in labor camps, including in Siberia. Within the past decade, worshipers across Russia have faced persecution, intrusive home searches, and arrests, and have been denied rights to freedom of assembly, association, and religion.
      In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Russia for closing the Moscow branch of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and refusing to allow the group to re-register. The court found violations of articles 9 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protect freedom of religion and association, respectively. In addition to awarding monetary damages, the court said that Russia should review the domestic decisions that led to the violations. Russia has refused to carry out the judgments in that case and several others brought by members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. On the contrary, Russia has continued to persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses, seeking the group’s complete dissolution in Russia.
      From April to June 2018, law enforcement raids targeted Jehovah’s Witness communities in at least 11 regions throughout Russia, from Saratov region in southwestern Russia to Primorsky Krai in Russia’s far east. Police carried out the raids, often accompanied by a combination of FSB officials wearing masks, armed personnel of the Interior Ministry Special Task Police Force or National Guard, and representatives from the Investigative Committee, Russia’s criminal investigation service.  
      The authorities, who obtained search warrants or entry permits in most cases, confiscated personal computers, mobile phones, bank cards, passports, religious literature, and, in some cases, housing deeds. Dozens of JehovahÂ’s Witnesses, including at least one child, were taken to local investigative offices for questioning. Others were detained and later charged.
      A lawyer representing a Jehovah’s Witness who is in pretrial detention in Murmansk Region told Human Rights Watch that the authorities’ actions contradict religious freedom guarantees in the Russian Constitution. “The [Russian] constitution says that you can practice your faith together with others, but as it turns out, that’s a crime,” said Yegiazar Chernikov, of the Sverdlovsk Lawyers’ Association.
      In at least two regions, armed officers threatened the worshipers with firearms, in one case pointing a gun at a personÂ’s head, a lawyer familiar with the incident told Human Rights Watch.
      A JehovahÂ’s Witnesses representative told Human Rights Watch that approximately 160 JehovahÂ’s Witnesses have fled Russia to seek refuge abroad.
      On June 20, Russia’s Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights announced that it had asked the prosecutor general’s office to verify the legality of criminal prosecutions against Jehovah’s Witnesses practicing their faith. A week earlier, several of the spouses of the men in pretrial detention had sent a letter to the chair of the council, Mikhail Fedotov, urging him to ask President Vladimir Putin to end the raids and arrests and to restore freedom of religion in Russia.
      Over 150 Russian activists, journalists, and academics – including several members of Memorial, Russia’s foremost human rights group – signed and published an open letter urging the authorities to immediately release those in detention and to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision to liquidate the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ organization.
      Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia – like all people in Russia – should be able to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of religion and association, Human Rights Watch said. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Russian Constitution as well as the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Russia is a party.
      Under international law, freedom of religion includes the freedom to practice one’s religion or belief both individually and in community with others, in public or in private, and through worship, practice, and teaching. Russia already has many rulings against it for its failure to respect the freedom of religion of faith communities and minority religious groups, such as the Church of Scientology, the Salvation Army, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses
      “Russia should do right by its national and international obligations to respect freedom of religion,” Denber said. “Russian leadership should make sure that law enforcement is honoring and protecting that right, not trampling on it.”
      Raids Aimed at Intimidation
      The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a peaceful religious community. The consistent show of force in raids in many locations in Russia was disproportionate and seemed aimed at sending a strong message of intimidation, Human Rights Watch said. 
      In most regions, the authorities arrested people they singled out as leaders and organizers of the local Jehovah’s Witnesses community for such actions as recruiting new members and distributing religious literature that the authorities label “extremist.”
      On May 16 in the Orenburg Region, in southwest Russia, law enforcement personnel searched 18 homes in four cities and charged nine people. Two are in pretrial custody and another is under house arrest.
      On May 17 in Birobidzhan, in southeast Russia, representatives of the Jehovah’s Witnesses reported that about 150 law enforcement personnel raided the homes of at least nine Jehovah’s Witnesses, confiscating photos, bank cards, money, and computers. An official reportedly saidthat the operation was code-named “Judgment Day.” One person was arrested and charged with organizing activities of an “extremist organization” but was released from pretrial detention eight days later.
      On April 18 in the town of Polyarny in the Murmansk Region, in northwest Russia, armed law enforcement agents raided at least seven homes and arrested two men. They took several others into custody for questioning and later released them. Police also took a 16-year-old girl into custody and questioned her at the local investigative unit for several hours. A video posted on the Murmansk Investigative Committee’s website shows men wearing camouflage uniforms and helmets forcing open a door to an apartment.
      The arrest and raid campaign took place as the trial of a Jehovah’s Witness who is a Danish citizen, Dennis Christensen, continues in Orel, a city in western Russia. Christensen, who was arrested in May 2017, is being tried on charges of organizing activities of an “extremist organization” and faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence if convicted. He has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rightsalleging, among other things, that his arrest constituted unlawful interference with his right to freedom of religion.
      Another Jehovah’s Witness in Orel, 55-year-old Sergei Skrynnikov, was charged on May 8, 2018, with participating in the activities of an “extremist organization.”
      A lawyer who is defending three Jehovah’s Witnesses in two regions said that throughout the past eight months, FSB agents in the Orenburg Region and the Republic of Bashkortostan conducted wiretapping, videotaping, and other surveillance of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ activities – for which they said they had warrants – as part of the investigation. In some cases, the lawyer said, authorities placed recording devices in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ homes.
      Earlier in 2018, police raided more than two dozen JehovahÂ’s WitnessesÂ’ homes in Belgorod and Kemerovo. Two JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Belgorod are facing extremism charges.
      Saratov and Shirokoe, Saratov Region
      On June 12, authorities in Saratov Region, southwestern Russia, raided at least seven homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Saratov and village of Shirokoe. According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, special forces officers broke down doors and confiscated computers, books, notebooks, photographs, bankbooks, and passports. The authorities took at least 10 people to FSB offices for questioning.
      Three were detained and charged with organizing activities of an “extremist organization.” They are: 43-year-old Konstantin Bazhenov, 35-year-old Aleksei Budenchuk, and 33-year-old Felix Makhammadiyev. On June 14, the Frunzensky District Court placed all three in pretrial detention until August 12.
      Tomsk, Tomsk Region
      Law enforcement raided several homes and cars belonging to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Tomsk between 10 a.m. on June 3 and about 2 a.m. the next day, the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia reported. Officers confiscated Bibles, mobile phones, tablets, computers, photographs, money, bank cards, and other personal possessions. They took about 30 people to the police anti-extremism center for questioning.
      According to a statement by the Tomsk Investigative Committee, the searches were part of a joint FSB and Internal Affairs Ministry investigation into meetings of Jehovah’s Witness residents in Tomsk. Investigative authorities allege that worshipers studied prohibited, “extremist” religious materials and carried out organized religious activities in violation of the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Center.
      Representatives of the Jehovah’s Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that 48-year-old Sergei Klimov was detained after a search of his home on June 3, was charged with organizing activities of an “extremist organization,” and will remain in pretrial detention until August 4.
      Magadan, Magadan Region
      The Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia reported that on May 30, FSB and law enforcement officers arrested Konstantin Petrov, 31; Yevgeny Zyablov, 41; and Sergei Yerkin, 61, after searching their homes in the city of Magadan (Magadan Region). On the same day, authorities in Khabarovsk (Khabarovsky Krai) detained Ivan Puyda, 39, based on a court order from Magadan. All four are accused of organizing activities of an “extremist organization” and will remain in pretrial detention until July 29.
      Naberezhnye Chelny, Republic of Tatarstan
      Police and FSB officials searched the homes of 10 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Naberezhnye Chelny, in south-central Russia, on the evening of May 27. The Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia reported that the searches lasted “well into the night.”
      Investigators arrested Ilham Karimov, 37; Vladimir Myakushin, 30; Konstantin Matrashov, 25;   Aydar Yulmetyev, 24, on suspicion of organizing and participating in the activities of an “extremist organization” and placed them in pretrial detention until July 25. The Naberezhnye Chelny City Court displays records of all four hearings. According to the religious freedom monitoring group Forum 18, Karimov, Myakushin, and Matrashov have appealed their pretrial detention.
      Perm, Perm Krai
      The Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia reported that on the evening of May 22, Aleksandr Solovyev, 48, and his wife, Anna, were detained at the railway station in Perm, in the Ural Mountains region, after returning from a trip abroad. Law enforcement then searched the couple’s home and reportedly seized property deeds, photographs, several Bibles, and a Wi-Fi router.
      Anna was released, but her husband was held for two days. He was released on May 24, and the Sverdlovsk District Court ordered him confined to house arrest. According to Forum 18, he is being investigated on charges of participating in the activities of an “extremist organization.”
      Before the 2017 Supreme Court ruling banning the Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Center, Solovyov chaired the Perm Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation, according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia website.
      Birobidzhan, Jewish Autonomous Region
      On May 17 in Birobidzhan, southeast Russia, police raided the homes of at least nine Jehovah’s Witnesses. The raids were carried out by approximately 150 law enforcement officers. An official reportedly saidthat the operation was code-named “Judgment Day.”
      On May 18, 55-year-old Alam Aliev was placed in pretrial detention until July 13 under suspicion of organizing activities of an “extremist organization.” The FSB stated that its request to detain Aliev “was motivated by the fact that the crime is classified as grave” and because “[t]he suspect may impede the criminal proceedings, put pressure on witnesses, and also evade investigative and judicial authorities.” Following an appeal by Aliev’s lawyer, Aliev was released from detention on May 25 but still faces charges.
      Orenburg, Orenburg Region
      On May 16 in Orenburg Region, Investigative Committee authorities, FSB officials, and armed National Guard officers searched 18 homes in four cities. Vitaly Svintsov, a lawyer representing two Jehovah’s Witnesses in the region, told Human Rights Watch that nine people were charged with organizing or participating in the activities of an “extremist organization.” Two of them, Aleksandr Suvorov and Vladimir Kochnev, both 38, remain in pretrial custody until July 14. Twenty-six-year-old Vladislav Kolbanov remains under house arrest. The other six remain under travel restrictions while the investigation is ongoing, Svintsov said.
      Photographs of some of the raids posted on the Orenburg Investigative Committee website show FSB officials and riot police in bulletproof vests and masks approaching Jehovah’s Witnesses’ residences.
      A statement by the Orenburg Investigative Committee said that investigative operations were “carefully planned and organized” by law enforcement with the aim of “seizing documents and items relevant to the criminal case, as well as identifying other persons involved in unlawful activities.” Investigators allege that the suspects “organized activities of a subdivision of Jehovah’s Witnesses [Administrative Center] by calling and holding meetings, organizing the recruitment of new members, and communicating the contents of religious literature to meeting participants.”
      Shuya, Ivanovo Region
      Forum 18 reported that law enforcement raided four homes in the town of Shuya, western Russia, early on the morning of April 20.
      Dmitry Mikhailov, 33, was arrested on May 29, over a month after his home was searched and placed in pretrial custody until July 19. He is being accused of “financing extremist activities.”  
      On April 20, the Ivanovo Region Investigative Committee released a statement about the home searches, alleging that since the beginning of 2018, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Shuya had been studying literature “containing statements degrading human dignity . . . and elements of propaganda of the exclusivity of one religion over another.”
      Vladivostok, Primorsky Krai
      Several homes belonging to Jehovah’s Witnesses were reportedly raidedon April 19 in the far-east city of Vladivostok.
      Human Rights Watch was able to confirm that on April 23 Valentin Osadchuk, 42, was placed under arrest by Frunzensky District Court on charges of participation in the activities of an “extremist organization” after authorities searched his home and confiscated computers, notebooks, and other devices. He remains in pretrial detention until September 20. Representatives of the Jehovah’s Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that five others face the same charges but remain at liberty subject to travel restrictions.
      Polyarny, Murmansk Region
      On the evening of April 18 in the town of Polyarny in the Murmansk region, armed law enforcement raided at least seven homes and arrested two JehovahÂ’s Witnesses, Roman Markin, 44, and Viktor Tifimov, 61. Others whose homes were searched were taken to the local investigative unit for questioning and later released without charge.
      The Murmansk Region Investigative Committee stated on its websitethat National Guard officers and FSB officials who led the home searches confiscated computer drives and religious literature. A video posted to the website shows men wearing camouflage uniforms and helmets forcing open a door with a pry bar. The Investigative Committee said that beginning in April 2017, the suspects had allegedly “organized activities of the religious organization [Jehovah’s Witnesses] by convening and holding meetings, organizing the recruitment of new members, and leading studies of religious texts at meetings.”
      MarkinÂ’s lawyer, Arli Chimirov, told Human Rights Watch that armed officers broke down MarkinÂ’s door and told him and his 16-year-old daughter, who was at home with him, to lie on the floor while law enforcement threatened them with firearms and searched the apartment. MarkinÂ’s daughter was escorted to the investigative unit and was questioned for several hours along with her mother, who arrived some time later.
      On April 23, 2018, the Polyarny District Court placed Markin in pretrial custody until June 11. Markin’s lawyer unsuccessfully appealed the decision. According to court documents on file with Human Rights Watch, investigative authorities requested that Markin be placed in pretrial detention because of the risk that he “may continue criminal activities, threaten participants in the legal proceedings, hide or destroy evidence, and also fail to attend preliminary court hearings.” On June 4, Markin’s pretrial detention was extended to October 11.
      TifimovÂ’s lawyer, Yegiazar Chernikov, told Human Rights Watch that beginning in October 2017, investigators had been collecting as evidence audio and video recordings of conversations among JehovahÂ’s Witnesses. Chernikov said that on several occasions, a woman involved in the investigation invited Tifimov to her home, where audio and video recording devices were in place, and asked him questions given to her by investigative authorities and designed to incriminate him.
      Tifimov was originally detained until June 12, 2018, but his pretrial detention was extended until October 11.
      Ufa, Republic of Bashkortostan
      The religious freedom group Forum 18 reported that approximately 60 law enforcement officers, some of them armed, raided eight homes in the city of Ufa, south-central Russia, on the morning of April 10. Investigators confiscated personal belongings, books, and photographs. The lawyer representing one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who was detained said that authorities threatened worshipers with weapons, in one case holding an automatic weapon to a person’s head.
      At least 20 people were reportedly taken to the Lenin District Investigative Department for questioning and fingerprinting but were later released. One girl was called for questioning, but when she showed up for the meeting with her mother and the director of her school, the investigator failed to appear.
      On April 12, Anatoly Vilikevich, 32, was arrested on suspicion of organizing activities of an “extremist organization,” and placed in pretrial detention. Vilikevich’s lawyer, Vitaly Svintsov, who appealed the order, told Human Rights Watch that on June 21 the Supreme Court of Bashkortostan overturned the lower court’s decision and placed him under house arrest.
      A statement by the Bashkortostan Republic Investigative Committeealleged that Vilikevich had organized a local chapter of the banned Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Center. Investigators who searched his home confiscated “prohibited literature,” the statement said.
      https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/06/28/russia-sweeping-arrests-jehovahs-witnesses

      Since 2007, dozens of pieces of JehovahÂ’s WitnessesÂ’ literature have been banned and placed on the federal registry of banned extremist materials. Pictured here, stacks of booklets distributed by a local leader of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation in the Siberian town of Gorno-Altaysk are seen during a court session on December 16, 2010.
       ©2010 Reuters/Alexandr Tyryshkin
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      In a surprising move, a branch of the Russian government has called out the actions of their government’s police and judicial forces in the enforcement of the ban of Jehovah Witnesses.  The ban occurred last year when the Russian Supreme Court labeled the religious denomination an “extremist organization.” This has led to arrests of over a dozen Jehovah’s Witnesses, the closing of all administrative and religious worship buildings, and near constant harassment by police forces for the private practice of their faith. Several wives of arrested Jehovah’s Witnesses created a joint statement begging for their release. The Presidential Council is designed to help assist the Russian president in protecting human rights. In a written statement, the organization questioned the actions of the past year, saying “It cannot but be a cause for concern because the criminal prosecutions and detentions have taken on a systemic character.” This comes at a unique time for human rights and Russia. The country deflected demands by the United States to release over a hundred political and religious prisoners earlier in the week, including Jehovah’s Witnesses. The United States pressure was labeled Western propaganda. Conversely, Russia has been proposing that it takes the United States spot on the United Nations Human Rights Council. The United States announced pulling out of the international body earlier this week. Given the authoritarian control Putin has over the government, the actions of the presidential council may be purely a symbolic measure to prevent criticism from the West and gain support for their bid to join the UN Human Rights Council. It is unclear what steps will be taken and what the lasting effect will be on the government. What is not addressed in the letter is the physical violence and threats that have occurred from vigilante groups and private citizens, which seem emboldened by the government’s law and police actions.

      Read more at World Religion News: "Russian Government Criticizes Putin for Treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses" https://www.worldreligionnews.com/?p=53681
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      By Andrew Osborn
      MOSCOW (Reuters) – Advisers to President Vladimir Putin have questioned the legality of a slew of criminal cases opened against members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and asked the General Prosecutor’s office to protect the group’s freedom of belief.
      Russia’s Supreme Court ruled in April last year that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were an “extremist” organisation and must disband, a move the group unsuccessfully appealed.
      Since then, at least 19 members have been detained on criminal charges in Russia with one, Danish citizen Dennis Christensen, now held for more than a year and put on trial for extremism.
      The Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, which advises Putin but does not have policy-making powers itself, said it believed law enforcement agencies were flouting the constitution and misinterpreting last year’s ruling by locking people up for collective bible reading and praying.
      “It cannot but be a cause for concern because the criminal prosecutions and detentions have taken on a systemic character,” the council said in a statement which the Jehovah’s Witnesses publicised on Thursday.
      “The situation evokes associations with the Soviet period when Jehovah’s Witnesses suffered groundless repression because of their faith.”
      The fact that the council has intervened on the group’s behalf does not necessarily mean that Putin will take up their cause though the subject is likely to be raised at the council’s next meeting with the Russian leader.
      ‘GLIMMER OF OPTIMISM’
      The Jehovah’s Witnesses, a United States-based Christian denomination known for its door-to-door preaching and rejection of military service and blood transfusions, has around 170,000 followers in Russia.
      The U.S. State Department on Monday said it was deeply concerned by what it described as the growing number of religious prisoners held in Russia, saying that people were being persecuted “in retaliation for peaceful religious practice.”
      And on Tuesday, more than 60 well-known Russian writers, historians and rights activists signed an appeal demanding the authorities stop prosecuting the group, describing the legal onslaught on its members as a test for Russian society.
      Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a member of the European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses, said on Thursday the council’s intervention had given his group “a glimmer of optimism.”
      “We hope that common sense will prevail and that someone wise … will say that this has all gone too far,” he said.
      “If the authorities can do this to us they can apply the same logic to do the same to anyone in Russia.”
      (Editing by Andrew Heavens)
      http://www.euronews.com/2018/06/21/stop-prosecuting-jehovahs-witnesses-in-russia-kremlin-advisers
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      The wives of Jehovah’s Witnesses rounded up and imprisoned in Russia have written an open letter to a top adviser of President Vladimir Putin, asking him to stop the campaign of terror against the religious group.
      “This open letter to you is a cry of desperation. People who are very dear to us, our husbands, those who feed us, the fathers of our children, peaceable, honest people, who are always ready to help others, are being thrown behind bars for being suspected of reading Bible commandments and praying together with us and our children,” reads the letter directed to Mikhail Fedotov, a close adviser of Putin and chairman of Russia’s Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights. The letter is signed by 10 wives of Jehovah’s Witnesses from across Russia.
      “In return for freedom and a quiet life, we are being invited to disown our faith. This is not just a figure of speech—investigators have directly invited us to sign documents in order to avoid punishment for ‘extremism’…If the Russian government does not quickly put an end to this growing campaign of terror, the administration will be faced with a nation-wide human rights catastrophe,” the letter continues.
      The Russian government labeled the Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist sect in April 2017, and has since been imprisoning its members and charging them with extremism. Members of the group have had their homes raided by masked men and their places of worship shuttered
      Read more: http://www.newsweek.com/wives-jehovahs-witnesses-jailed-russia-send-letter-putin-adviser-begging-end-965516
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Boris Zolotarevsky, the coordinator of Alexey Navalny’s campaign office in Chelyabinsk, is having a rough month. Already on a hunger strike while serving a 25-day jail sentence for organizing a local unpermitted anti-Putin protest on May 5, Zolotarevsky is now reportedly a suspect in an extremism case.
      On May 29, police apparently found banned religious literature at his home: several books printed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which Russia’s Supreme Court outlawed in April 2017 as an extremist organization. A source confirmed to the news agency Interfax that Zolotarevsky previously filed a request with Russia's draft board to avoid military service on religious grounds.
      Police detained more than 200 demonstrators in Chelyabinsk on May 5 — the most in any city, after Moscow and St. Petersburg. In most places where protesters were detained, local law enforcement have responded with misdemeanor charges, but police in Chelyabinsk launched a “hooliganism” felony investigation, which carries a seven-year maximum prison sentence.
      https://meduza.io/en/news/2018/05/29/alexey-navalny-s-campaign-coordinator-in-chelyabinsk-is-reportedly-caught-with-illegal-religious-literature
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Officers launched 28 raids on Jehovah's Witness homes in May, often forcing entry, threatening occupants with weapons and seizing literature and other items. Under criminal investigation are 7 Jehovah's Witnesses in pre-trial detention, 1 under house arrest and at least 11 under travel restrictions. Two others are already on trial.
      Law enforcement officers, some armed and in body armour, raided a further 28 Jehovah's Witness homes in May in Orenburg Region, the Jewish Autonomous Region, and the Urals city of Perm. The latest raids led to detentions, house arrest, travel restrictions, and criminal charges for at least another 11 people.

      Seven Jehovah's Witnesses are now known to be in pre-trial detention facing criminal investigations or charges. Another is under house arrest, while at least a further 11 are under travel restrictions. In two other cases, trials are already underway (see full list at base of this article).

      As in previous raids, law enforcement agents often forced entry to properties, threatened the occupants with weapons, and confiscated personal items, including bank cards. They then took Jehovah's Witnesses, including minors, away for interrogation, sometimes for several hours overnight (see below).

      Law enforcement agencies carried out the searches and arrests in Perm, Birobidzhan and four towns in Orenburg Region in mid-May, in some cases accompanied by National Guard troops or riot police armed with machine guns. They came about a month after similar searches in Ufa (Bashkortostan Republic), Polyarny (Murmansk Region), Shuya (Ivanovo Region), and Vladivostok. Criminal investigations are continuing in these places, as well as in Belgorod and Kemerovo, where Jehovah's Witnesses also suffered armed raids in January and February (see F18News 23 April 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2372).

      Officials know that using troops and weapons including machine guns on raids is unnecessary, as Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide are a doctrinally pacifist community whose young male members worldwide will not do compulsory military service or any other military-connected activity. However, even before Jehovah's Witnesses were banned in Russia their communities were frequently raided by heavily armed and camouflaged officials who frequently planted "evidence" (see eg. F18News 24 October 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2228).

      The Jehovah's Witnesses caught up in 2018's wave of prosecutions are accused of "continuing the activities" of the Jehovah's Witness Administrative Centre, their principal administrative body in Russia, which was outlawed as an "extremist" organisation and liquidated in 2017 (see F18News 18 July 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2297).

      Muslims also face "extremism" investigation, trials, jailing 

      Prosecutors have also long jailed Muslims who meet to read the works of late Turkish theologian Said Nursi. Four were jailed in 2017 (see F18News 8 December 2017 http://forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2339). People who meet to study his writings can be accused of continuing the activities of "Nurdzhular", which was banned as an "extremist organisation" by the Supreme Court in 2008, even though Muslims in Russia deny it has ever existed (see Forum 18's "extremism" Russia religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=2215).

      Five Muslims are known by Forum 18 to be already on trial for having met to study Nursi's works – three in Krasnoyarsk, one in Novosibirsk, and one in Izberbash in the Republic of Dagestan. Another man, from Sharypovo in Krasnoyarsk Region, is due to appear in court soon (see F18News 27 April 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2373).

      Up to 10 years' imprisonment?

      If convicted, the Jehovah's Witnesses charged or under investigation could be imprisoned for up to 10 years 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"), or up to six years under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 2 ("Participation 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").

      One criminal investigation, in Orenburg, is also taking place under Criminal Code Article 282.3, Part 1 ("Financing of extremist activity"). This appears to be the first use of this Article against people exercising the internationally-recognised right to freedom of religion and belief.

      Conviction under Criminal Code Article 282.3, Part 1 ("Provision or collection of funds or rendering of financial services that are knowingly designed to finance the organisation, preparation and commission of at least one extremist crime or the support of the activities of an extremist community or an extremist organisation") carries the following penalties:

      - a fine of 300,000 to 700,000 Roubles, which is currently between two to four years' annual salary;

      - or compulsory labour for a period of one to four years, with possible deprivation of the right to hold certain positions or engage in certain activities for a period of up to three years, or with possible restrictions on freedom for a period of up to one year;

      - or three to eight years' imprisonment.

      Forum 18 wrote to the Moscow press office of the Investigative Committee (which is leading most of the investigations) on 23 April, asking why the Jehovah's Witnesses detained in Ufa, Shuya, and Polyarny were considered so dangerous that armed force had to be used. On 10 May, Lieutenant Colonel S. Solovyov replied only that all available information on these cases could be found on the Bashkortostan, Ivanovo Region, and Murmansk Region Investigative Committee websites.

      None of the people involved in the latest prosecution yet appears on the Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring) "List of Terrorists and Extremists", whose assets banks are obliged to freeze. Their names may be added while their cases are still ongoing, however, meaning that they will suffer financial restrictions without any trial or conviction (see Forum 18's "extremism" Russia religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=2215).

      Officials added the name of Danish Jehovah's Witness Dennis Ole Christensen to the List shortly after his trial began.

      Christensen and Jehovah's Witness elder Arkadya Akopovich Akopyan are currently on trial for alleged "extremism" offences not directly related to the nationwide ban (see F18News 27 April 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2373).

      Perm

      Aleksandr Solovyov and his wife Anna had just returned from a trip abroad when law enforcement agents detained them at Perm-2 railway station on the evening of 22 May. Friends who had come to meet them said that officers put Solovyov in handcuffs and took him and his wife away in separate cars, the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses reported on 24 May.

      Anna Solovyova has since been released, but Aleksandr is being held in a temporary detention centre while a judge decides on further restrictive measures. It is as yet unclear whether he will be placed in pre-trial detention or which court will rule on the matter. Under which part of Criminal Code Article 282.2 ("Organisation of" or "participation 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") he is being investigated is also unknown.

      Investigators searched the Solovyovs' home overnight on 22/23 May and seized the deeds to the flat, electronic devices, computer drives, their wifi router, photographs, and their collection of Bibles.

      Before the nationwide ban on Jehovah's Witness activity and the consequent liquidation of local communities, Aleksandr Solovyov chaired the Perm Jehovah's Witness congregation, according to federal tax records. Anna Solovyova does not appear on the list of founding members.

      As of 24 May, Solovyov was being held at the Temporary Detention Centre, ulitsa Uralskaya, 90, Perm, 614017.

      Birobidzhan: "Judgment Day"

      About 150 law enforcement officers conducted at least nine searches of Jehovah's Witness homes in Birobidzhan, capital of the Jewish Autonomous Region, early in the morning of 17 May, the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses announced later that day. The operation was codenamed "Judgment Day", according to the Association.

      Officers seized personal photographs, bank cards, money, and electronic devices. So far, one person – Alam Aliyev – is known to be the subject of a criminal case 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").

      On 18 May, Judge Marina Tsimarno of Birobidzhan District Court upheld FSB investigators' request to keep Aliyev in pre-trial custody in Birobidzhan's Investigation Prison No. 1 until 13 July, according to court records. Aliyev's lawyers submitted an appeal against his detention on 21 May. On 25 May, Judge Anzhela Sizova of the Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region upheld this appeal, citing "significant violations of criminal procedural law governing the choice of pre-trial detention as a restrictive measure". This freed Aliyev from detention after eight days. It remains unknown what restrictions he remains under.

      The FSB's request to hold Aliyev in custody "was motivated by the fact that the crime is classified as grave, for which the law provides for a sentence of imprisonment for a term of six to 10 years", according to a 21 May press statement on the court website. "During the preliminary investigation, it was established that a large number of persons took part in the activity of this organisation. The suspect is the organiser of this extremist organisation and has an actual influence on members of the association."

      Birobidzhan was home to the only registered local Jehovah's Witness congregation in the Jewish Autonomous Region, which was among those ruled "extremist" and liquidated before the Supreme Court's decision to ban the Jehovah's Witnesses nationwide. The Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region upheld the local Justice Ministry branch's suit on 3 October 2016, and the community ceased its activities on 20 December 2016, according to federal tax records. Aliyev does not appear in the records as a founder member of the community.

      Orenburg Region: Mass raids

      Investigative Committee operatives, FSB security service agents, and armed riot police carried out 18 house searches in Orenburg, Buzuluk, Perevolotsky, and Sol-Iletsk, also on 17 May.

      They took 15 people away for questioning, three of whom were then sent to a temporary detention centre, according to statements by the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses on 17 May and 21 May.

      Of these three, Judge Igor Ismaylov of Industrial District Court ruled on 19 May that one – Vladislav Kolbanov – should be placed under house arrest, while the other two – Aleksandr Suvorov and Vladimir Kochnyov – should be kept in pre-trial detention until 14 July.

      Orenburg Region Investigative Committee reported that a further six people are under travel restrictions.

      Forum 18 understands Suvorov and Kochnyov's prison address to be:

      Orenburg Region

      460000 Orenburg

      ulitsa Naberezhnaya, 7

      Investigation Prison No. 1

      The Investigative Committee said in a press statement on 22 May that nine people in Orenburg Region have been formally charged 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"), Article 282.2, Part 2 ("Participation in" such an organisation), and Criminal Code Article 282.3, Part 1 ("Financing of extremist activity").

      The European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses thinks that Kochnyov and Suvorov (both from Orenburg) have been charged under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1. Kolbanov (also from Orenburg), Boris Andreyev (from Perevolotsky), and Anatoly Vichkitov (from Sol-Iletsk) are also among those charged, although it remains unclear with which alleged offences.

      Before the liquidation of the Administrative Centre, Orenburg and Buzuluk had registered Jehovah's Witness communities, while Perevolotsky and Sol-Iletsk did not. According to federal tax records, Suvorov previously chaired the Central Orenburg Jehovah's Witness community, and Kochnyov was among its founding members.

      The raids on 17 May took place "as a result of carefully planned and organised operational and investigative actions", according to the Investigative Committee statement, and had the aim of "seizing documents and items relevant to the criminal case, as well as identifying other persons involved in unlawful activities".

      In raiding the historically pacifist Jehovah's Witnesses, police "anti-extremism" officers, the Economic Security and Anti-Corruption Administration, and the Orenburg Region FSB security service were also involved. The raids on pacifists also included what was described as "armed support" from National Guard special forces troops.

      Investigators allege that the suspects, knowing of the 2017 ban on Jehovah's Witness activity, "organised the activity of a structural subdivision of Jehovah's Witnesses by calling and holding meetings, organising the recruitment of new members, and communicating the contents of religious literature to meeting participants".

      The investigation is continuing, with "necessary investigative and operational-search measures underway in order to collect and consolidate a base of evidence", according to the statement.

      Telephones at Orenburg Region Investigative Committee went unanswered when Forum 18 called on 24 May to ask why officials thought armed force was necessary against pacifists.

      Polyarny, Murmansk Region

      Further details have now emerged of earlier raids on Jehovah's Witness homes in other regions (see F18News 23 April 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2372).

      Two men from Polyarny in Murmansk Region are in pre-trial detention, the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses confirmed on 11 May. They are Roman Markin and Viktor Trofimov, who are in custody in the city of Murmansk until 12 June. The Investigative Committee's branch in the closed district of Aleksandrovsk (which includes Polyarny) opened the case against them on 12 April . This is 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").

      Markin and Trofimov's prison address is:

      Murmansk Region

      183027 Murmansk

      ulitsa Radishcheva, 32

      Investigation Prison No. 1

      Before the nationwide ban and liquidation of local Jehovah's Witness organisations, Viktor Trofimov chaired the Polyarny community, according to federal tax records.

      The men (who are like all Jehovah's Witnesses pacifists) were detained during armed raids on seven houses in Polyarny on 18 April, which involved armed troops and riot police "who acted extremely rudely", according to Jehovah's Witnesses. Officers searched 17 people in all and confiscated their electronic devices. Interrogations at the Investigative Department of the Northern Fleet's Polyarny Flotilla continued through the night until 7 am the next day (see F18News 23 April 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2372).

      At Roman Markin's home, officers broke down his front door in the early evening, forced him and his 16-year-old daughter to lie on the floor during the search, and threatened them with weapons. Investigators questioned the 16-year-old until 3 am.

      During another search, an elderly man opened the door to the riot police, who then "pushed him so violently that he fell", the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses claims. They also hurt two women who were visiting the flat, and forced two teenage siblings to stand against the wall with their arms outstretched.

      Vladivostok

      Valentin Osadchuk remains in pre-trial detention in Vladivostok, where he is to be held until 20 June. He was formally charged on 27 April under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 2 ("Participation 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"), according to the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses (see F18News 23 April 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2372).

      Forum 18 understands Osadchuk's prison address to be:

      Primorye Region

      690106 Vladivostok

      Partizansky prospekt, 28b

      Investigation Prison No. 1

      Two women, aged 66 and 83, have also been named as suspects under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 2 ("Participation 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") and placed under travel restrictions, the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses also reported on 10 May. The FSB security service initiated the case against them and Osadchuk on 9 April. According to Jehovah's Witnesses, the investigation involved video surveillance, followed by raids on people's homes on 19 April.
      Read more: http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2381
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Officials from the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization say Russian law-enforcement officers have carried out “mass searches” on members’ homes in the Urals region of Orenburg and in the Far Eastern city of Birobidzhan.
      Jarrod Lopes, a spokesman for the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York, on May 17 said 150 law-enforcement personnel raided more than 20 adherents’ homes in Birobidzhan, the capital of Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Region.
      The raids came after searches had been carried out on May 16 in the Orenburg region near the border with Kazakhstan in which 18 Jehovah’s Witnesses were questioned and three were taken into custody, Lopes said.
      The spokesman said a criminal case had been initiated against an adherent of the Christian sect, Alam Aliyev, and that a trial was expected on May 18.
      Russia’s Supreme Court in July 2017 upheld a ruling that the Jehovah’s Witnesses should be considered an extremist organization, effectively banning the denomination from the country.
      The original ruling, issued in April 2017, was the first time an entire registered religious organization had been prohibited under Russian law.
      Long viewed with suspicion in Russia for their positions on military service, voting, and government authority in general, the Jehovah’s Witnesses -- which claim some 170,000 adherents in Russia and 8 million worldwide -- are among several denominations that have come under increasing pressure in recent years.
      The sect began operating in Russia and across the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
      Russia's treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses has raised concerns from governments and religious organizations in the West.
      “The treatment of the Jehovah’s Witnesses reflects the Russian government’s tendency to view all independent religious activity as a threat to its control and the country’s political stability,” the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said after the Supreme Court ruling last year.
      https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-jehovah-witnesses-raids-urals-orenburg-far-east/29233089.html
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      ST. PETERSBURG, May 3. /TASS/. The St. Petersburg city court has upheld the decision to confiscate from the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania in New York the compound in the community of Solnechnoye on the Gulf of Finland and convert it to state property, the St. Petersburg courts’ press service said on Thursday.
      Earlier, a court of lower instance found that officially the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia in 2000 donated the real estate compound on the coast of the Gulf of Finland to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, registered on US territory. However, according to the courts’ press-service, the Administrative Center continued to use the facilities as before, which was a reason enough to declare the transaction fictitious and void. The property was taken over by the state.
      The compound consists of sixteen items - plots of land, homes and buildings more than 880 million rubles ($13.9 million) worth.
      Earlier, TASS reported that the defendants had disagreed with the lower instance court’s ruling and filed an appeal at the St. Petersburg city court. In particular, they argued that substantive law had been violated and anti-extremist law sanctions were used against them without a reason.
      Russia’s Supreme Court had declared Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organization and outlawed its activity in Russia.


      More:
      http://tass.com/world/1002773
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      The criminal trial in Krasnoyarsk Region of a fourth local Muslim accused of "extremism" for meeting with others to study the works of Muslim theologian Said Nursi appears imminent. Other criminal trials on similar charges of Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims continue.
      The criminal trial appears imminent of a further Muslim from Krasnoyarsk Region charged with "continuing the activities of an extremist organisation" for meeting to study the works of the late Turkish Muslim theologian Said Nursi, Forum 18 has found. Among the three Muslims already on trial in Krasnoyarsk on the same criminal charges is a Muslim whose previously unknown trial began in January.

      The latest case brings to six the total number of people known to be on trial or soon to come to court for alleged involvement in "Nurdzhular", which Muslims in Russia deny even exists. Two Jehovah's Witnesses are also on trial for extremism-related offences (see below).

      Criminal cases were opened in April against a further seven Jehovah's Witnesses for allegedly continuing to meet after the nationwide ban on Jehovah's Witness activity came into force in July 2017 (see F18News 23 April 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2372).

      If convicted under Criminal Code Article 282.2, both Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims who read Nursi's works could be jailed for up to ten years under Part 1 ("Organisation of the activities of a banned extremist organisation") or up to six years under Part 2 ("Participation in the activities of a banned extremist organisation").

      Typically, Muslims who study Nursi's writings meet in private homes, with one or more expounding on a particular book. They also pray, eat, and drink tea together. They do not seek any state permission for such meetings.

      Law enforcement agencies interpret such meetings as organised activity by "Nurdzhular" (derived from the Turkish for "Nursi followers"), which was ruled "extremist" and prohibited by the Supreme Court in 2008, despite the fact that Muslims in Russia say that no such association even exists.

      Courts have banned many Russian translations of Nursi's books, despite their not calling for violence or the violation of human rights (see Forum 18's Russia "extremism" religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2215).

      Subsequently, people who have met to study Nursi's books have been prosecuted under Criminal Code Article 282.2 ("Organisation of" or "participation 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").

      Since the 2017 liquidation of the Jehovah's Witness Administrative Centre as an "extremist" organisation, Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia are now also in danger of being prosecuted under Criminal Code Article 282.2 if they continue to meet for worship or Bible study. In some towns, this was already a danger after earlier "extremism" bans on local communities.

      Punishments

      Amendments to the Criminal Code in July 2016 introduced harsher penalties for "extremism"-related offences (see Forum 18's "extremism" Russia religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=2215).

      An individual charged since then (such as the two Muslims recently charged in Krasnoyarsk Region) could be sentenced to the following under Criminal Code Article 282.2 ("Organisation of" or "participation 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"):

      Part 1 – a fine of 400,000 to 800,000 Roubles (or two to four years' salary); or six to 10 years' imprisonment followed by restrictions on pursuing certain jobs and activities for up to 10 years and restrictions on freedom for one to two years;

      Part 2 – a fine of 300,000 to 600,000 Roubles (or two to three years' salary); compulsory labour for one to four years with possible restrictions on pursuing certain jobs and activities for two to six years; or two to six years' imprisonment followed by restrictions on pursuing certain jobs and activities for up to five years or restrictions on freedom for up to a year.

      A fine of 300,000 Roubles (42,000 Norwegian Kroner, 4,350 Euros or 5,300 US Dollars) is about eight months' average wages for those in formal work.

      For any defendant whose alleged offence took place before 20 July 2016, earlier provisions remain in place, with fines of 300,000 to 500,000 Roubles, compulsory labour of up to five years or prison sentences of two to eight years under Part 1, and fines of up to 300,000 Roubles, compulsory labour of up to three years, or prison sentences of up to four years under Part 2.

      Krasnoyarsk: Further trial begins 

      Two further Muslims in Krasnoyarsk Region, Sabirzhon Shamsidinovich Kabirzoda (born 4 May 1991) and Yevgeny Igoryevich Sukharev (born 9 April 1990), are facing prosecution under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 2 ("Participation in the activities of a banned extremist organisation").

      Kabirzoda and Sukharev are friends of two Muslims who are already on trial in Krasnoyarsk for alleged involvement in "Nurdzhular", a fellow Muslim who is following the case told Forum 18 on 20 April. Kabirzoda and Sukharev, however, are being tried separately, having been charged much later.

      Tajik-born Kabirzoda, who appears to work as a plasterer in Krasnoyarsk, is already on trial at the city's Soviet District Court, where prosecutors lodged his case on 22 December 2017. By this time, he had already been a suspect since December 2016 in the case against two other Muslims who read Nursi's works, Andrei Dedkov and Andrei Rekst (see below).

      This investigation was carried out by Krasnoyarsk Region FSB security service, which has repeatedly failed to respond to Forum 18's questions about the case.

      Kabirzoda has undergone nine hearings so far before Judge Marina Shtruba, with the next due on 14 May, according to the court website. He is not in custody or under house arrest, a fellow Muslim told Forum 18 on 26 April, and may not be under travel restrictions, "just an obligation to attend court".

      Kabirzoda was added on 20 November 2017 to the Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring) "List of Terrorists and Extremists", whose assets banks are obliged to freeze.

      Sharypovo: Trial imminent?

      The trial appears imminent of Yevgeny Sukharev, from the Krasnoyarsk Region town of Sharypovo. He is also accused of involvement in the "Nurdzhular cell" allegedly run by Andrei Dedkov.

      After an investigation by the Krasnoyarsk Region branch of the Investigative Committee, Sukharev was charged on 12 February 2018 and his case lodged at Sharypovo City Court on 27 March 2018. No date has yet been set for his first hearing before Judge Inga Gavritskaya.

      Sukharev is currently under travel restrictions. He does not yet appear on the Rosfinmonitoring "List of Terrorists and Extremists".

      In the Investigative Committee document officially charging Sukharev, seen by Forum 18, he is described as having been a "follower" of Said Nursi since October 2012. From July 2014 to March 2015, the document continues, Sukharev went to Turkey to study Nursi's teachings. He is accused of bringing banned books and brochures into Russia on his return.

      The document also outlines various gatherings at Sukharev's or his friends' homes in Sharypovo and Krasnoyarsk. At these meetings, Sukharev is accused of quoting from Nursi's writings, "applying knowledge and skills he acquired by studying the Risale-i Nur collection, using this literature as a single set of propaganda, influencing the religious feelings of those present with the goal of a step-by-step transformation of their personalities and change in their worldview in accordance with the ideology of [Nurdzhular], pursuing a goal of Islamisation of the population and creation of an Islamic state".

      Investigators name Andrei Rekst and Sabirzhon Kabirzoda as having been present at a "lesson" at which Sukharev quoted from Risale-i Nur. They refer to Andrei Dedkov only as "a person against whom separate criminal proceedings are underway", who organised the cell of which Sukharev was allegedly a part.

      According to the charges, the FSB security service raided Sukharev's rented flat in Sharypovo on 24 March 2017, "and on that same day Sukharev's criminal activity in Krasnoyarsk Region was thwarted". Officers seized several volumes from the Risale-i Nur collection (mainly single copies, Forum 18 notes, with a few duplicates) as well as Mary Weld's "Islam in Modern Turkey", a biography of Nursi which has also been banned in Russia as "extremist".

      Krasnoyarsk: Trials of Muslims continue into second year

      Andrei Nikolayevich Dedkov (born 16 June 1979), the alleged leader of the Krasnoyarsk "Nurdzhular cell", has now been on trial at Soviet District Court in Krasnoyarsk for just over a year. There have been 19 hearings in his case so far before Judge Sergei Tupeko, the latest on 17 April 2018. He is under travel restrictions, having been released from pre-trial detention in March 2017 after nearly twelve months.

      Dedkov's next hearing is due on 3 May, according to the court website.

      On 18 April, state drug control officers searched Dedkov's home and those of three other Krasnoyarsk Muslims for narcotics, a fellow Muslim who reads Nursi's works told Forum 18 the following day. The officers found nothing, but took all four men to the drug control service's headquarters and questioned them, before letting them go.

      "A special interest was shown in the messaging apps the Muslims used," their fellow Muslim added, and their phones were confiscated for further examination.

      This is the third time Dedkov has been prosecuted for allegedly organising "Nurdzhular" activities. The first case against him ran out of time in 2012. The second ended in conviction in 2015, but the consequent fine was dropped after the statute of limitations again expired during the appeal period (see F18News 21 January 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2141).

      Andrei Gennadyevich Rekst (born 14 March 1994), who is at home on bail, will next appear before Judge Radomir Larionov at Krasnoyarsk's Sverdlovsk District Court on 4 May. He has also had 19 hearings over the last year, the most recent on 26 April.

      Dedkov and Rekst were initially detained in March 2016, after the FSB security service had carried out surveillance of several Muslims in Krasnoyarsk for much of 2015 (see F18News 29 June 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2193). For holding gatherings to read and discuss Nursi's works, they were charged under Article 282.2, Part 1 (Dedkov) and Part 2 (Rekst).

      Both Rekst and Dedkov appear on the Rosfinmonitoring "List of Terrorists and Extremists".

      Prosecutors have also succeeded in having religious literature seized from Rekst's flat prohibited as "extremist". Judge Natalya Bogdevich of Sverdlovsk District Court upheld the prosecutors' suit on 28 March.

      If the ruling comes into force, Said Nursi's books "Admonition of the soul", "Tract on the wonders of the Koran", "Mesnevi Nuriye", and "The path of positive service" (all from the Risale-i Nur collection of Nursi's writings; all Russian translations from Turkish, published by Sözler) will be banned from distribution in Russia.

      Forty titles by Nursi are already on the Justice Ministry's Federal List of Extremist Materials (see Forum 18's "extremism" Russia religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=2215).

      Sergei Mikhailov, representing the Sözler publishing company, told Forum 18 on 19 April that he is preparing an appeal against the ban on the latest Nursi works to Krasnoyarsk Regional Court.

      Novosibirsk: Trial of Muslim, investigation of another continue

      The trial of Imam Komil Olimovich Odilov (born 18 August 1975) is continuing at Novosibirsk's October District Court. He has undergone seven hearings so far, with the next due on 3 May, according to the court website. The court has still not questioned Odilov, his lawyer, Yuliya Zhemchugova, told Forum 18 on 19 April.

      Prosecutors have charged Odilov under Article 282.2, Part 1, with organising a "cell" of "Nurdzhular" in Novosibirsk. He denies the charges and insists that the alleged organisation does not exist and that he has never engaged in extremist activity (see F18News 1 March 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2358).

      Odilov has been on the Rosfinmonitoring "List of Terrorists and Extremists" since January 2016.

      Odilov's is the only one among six related prosecutions to have come to trial so far.

      Prosecutors have closed the criminal cases against three of Odilov's fellow suspects – Uralbek Karaguzinov (born 21 July 1954), Mirsultan Takhir-ogly Nasirov (born 8 October 1997), and Bobirjon Baratovich Tukhtamurodov (born 9 July 1975) – under Criminal Code Article 76.2, which permits the "release from criminal liability" of people who have committed a minor or moderate-severity first offence upon payment of a judicial fine.

      The cases against Karaguzinov and Nasirov were ended at October District Court in November 2017. The two men have since been removed from the Rosfinmonitoring "List of Terrorists and Extremists". Tukhtamurodov's prosecution ended on 7 March 2018, also by order of October District Court – as of 27 April, his name remains on the Rosfinmonitoring list.

      The FSB in Novosibirsk is also investigating Imam Ilhom Zavkidinovich Merazhov (born 1 July 1970) under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1, and Timur Muzafarovich Atadzhanov (born 21 April 1988) under Article 282.2, Part 2. Merazhov is currently living abroad. Atadzhanov's whereabouts are unknown.

      This is the second time that Odilov and Merazhov have been prosecuted under Article 282.2, Part 1. In May 2013, they each received one-year suspended sentences for allegedly organising "Nurdzhular" activity in Novosibirsk.

      The men were among nine people detained by the FSB at an Azerbaijani cafe in Novosibirsk in December 2015 (see F18News 21 January 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2141). Most were released the next day after interrogation and searches of their homes, but Odilov was kept in custody for nine months before being allowed home under travel restrictions in September 2016.

      The Novosibirsk FSB, which was responsible for the investigation, has repeatedly refused to answer Forum 18's questions about the case.

      Dagestan: Trial of Muslim continues

      The trial of Ilgar Vagif-ogly Aliyev is continuing at Izberbash City Court in Dagestan. He has had eight hearings so far, the latest on 11 April.

      He has not been added to the Rosfinmonitoring list.

      Prosecutors have charged Aliyev under Article 282.2, Part 1 ("Organisation of the activities of a banned extremist organisation") for holding gatherings of fellow Muslims to study Nursi's works (see F18News 1 March 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2358).

      Aliyev is being held in Investigation Prison No. 2 in Derbent, a fellow Muslim told Forum 18, and is taken from there to Izberbash on each day of the trial.

      Oryol: Trial of Jehovah's Witness continues

      The trial of Danish Jehovah's Witness Dennis Ole Christensen (born 18 December 1972) began at Oryol's Railway District Court on 26 February. There have been five hearings so far, the latest on 25 April. Judge Aleksei Rudnev has scheduled further hearings on 14, 15, 16, 28, 29, and 30 May.

      Prosecutors accuse Christensen of "continuing the activities" of the banned and liquidated Oryol Jehovah's Witness community, and have charged him under Article 282.2, Part 1 ("Organisation of the activities of a banned extremist organisation") (see F18News 20 February 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2355).

      Jehovah's Witnesses maintain that the ban on their activities (nationwide from July 2017, in several towns beforehand as a result of local liquidations) does not amount to a prohibition of their faith, and that they retain the right under the Russian Constitution to pray together.

      Christensen's lawyer Viktor Zhenkov told the court on 23 April that the defence intends to seek clarification as to "what should be considered the consequences of liquidation of a legal entity, and what is the inviolable human right to freedom of religion".

      The case materials come to 2,500 pages, according to the jw-russia.org news website, which is administered from outside Russia. Court proceedings have been twice adjourned (on 26 February and 3 April) to allow Christensen more time to familiarise himself with the evidence against him (previously, Oryol's Soviet District Court had limited him to two weeks).

      Prosecutors complained at the 3 April hearing that asking for more time was "an intentional drawing out of proceedings", jw-russia.org reported on 9 April. Judge Rudnev, however, agreed to the defence request and granted Christensen six more meetings with his translator. The judge refused, however, to allow the defence team to view the prosecution's material evidence (video recordings, photographs, and items seized in searches).

      As the trial proceeds, Christensen remains in custody at Investigation Prison No. 1 in Oryol. On 22 February, Judge Rudnev extended his detention period to 1 August 2018. Danish Embassy officials, who have been in contact with Christensen, report that he is in good health and has not been mistreated in the prison.

      On 27 March, Christensen was added to the Rosfinmonitoring "List of Terrorists and Extremists". This means that his bank accounts have been frozen and no transactions worth more than 10,000 Roubles per month are allowed.

      When Judge Rudnev asked Christensen on 23 April if he understood the accusations against him, Christensen responded that he understood only partially, since the charge was "formulated so broadly", the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 on 24 April.

      Lawyer Anton Bogdanov pointed out that the indictment "does not contain the essence of the charge, or a description of the places and times of the commission of the alleged criminal actions or of methods, consequences, or other significant circumstances, without which it is impossible to issue a judicial decision".

      On 24 April, the court began questioning witnesses. This will be followed by the questioning of Christensen himself, then the final arguments from prosecution and defence, the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses explained.

      Police and FSB security service operatives arrested Christensen at a Bible study meeting on 25 May 2017. Video footage posted online by local news site Orlovskiye Novosti shows armed personnel in body armour and balaclavas, accompanied by others in civilian clothes, entering a Kingdom Hall. The congregation inside was prevented from leaving while officers searched the building. Interrogations and searches of people's homes continued into the following morning, Jehovah's Witnesses reported (see F18News 22 June 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2290).

      The registered Jehovah's Witness organisation in Oryol was ruled "extremist" and ordered liquidated in June 2016. Christensen's prosecution is derived from this local ban, and not the nationwide prohibition on Jehovah's Witness activities, which came into force in July 2017, after the case against him was initiated.

      Prokhladny: Trial of Jehovah's Witness continues

      The 70-year-old Jehovah's Witness elder Anatolya Akopovich Akopyan has so far undergone sixteen hearings in his trial at Prokhladny City Court in the North Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkariya, according to court records. The latest of these took place on 15 March, when Judge Oleg Golovashko ordered further "expert analysis".

      Akopyan has been charged under Article 282, Part 1 ("Actions directed at the incitement of hatred [nenavist] or enmity [vrazhda], as well as the humiliation of an individual or group of persons on the basis of sex, race, nationality, language, origin, attitude to religion, or social group") (see F18News 20 February 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2355).

      Prosecutors accuse Akopyan of giving sermons which "degraded the dignity" of Orthodox and Muslim clergy, condoning Pussy Riot's demonstration in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow in 2012, and giving banned "extremist" literature to his community.

      The case against Akopyan is based on the testimony of five witnesses who are not member of the Jehovah's Witnesses, but who claim to have attended meetings at which they heard the allegedly extremist sermons and were given banned texts to distribute. This is despite the fact that their mobile phone records show that they were nowhere near the Jehovah' Witnesses' building at the times in question, defence lawyers have claimed.

      Expert Irina Balova, who analysed the statements allegedly made by Akopyan, gave evidence at hearings on 14 and 15 March, the jw-russia.org news website reported on 20 March. Judge Golovashko found shortcomings in this testimony, including the fact that Balova had ignored the absence of a punctuation mark which could give a sentence an entirely different meaning. At the request of defence lawyers, he decided to appoint a new expert for a fresh psycho-linguistic examination.

      If convicted, Akopyan may receive the following possible punishments: a fine of 300,000 to 500,000 Roubles; or 2 to 3 years' income; or compulsory labour (prinutdelnaya rabota) for 1 to 4 years with a ban on working in one's profession for up to 3 years; or 2 to 5 years' imprisonment.

      Akopyan remains under travel restrictions, but has not been placed on the Rosfinmonitoring "List of Terrorists and Extremists" as of 27 April. (END)
      http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2373
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Wearing balaclavas and carrying machine guns, police in four Russian cities have raided the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses over the past two weeks and brought members of the religious group in for questioning, sources connected to the group told Newsweek.
      In Russia, where the Orthodox Christian Church has deep ties to the highest levels of the Kremlin, the government has labeled Jehovah’s witnesses an “extremist” sect. The ruling was made exactly one year ago, in April 2017, and came into force just a few months later when Russia’s Supreme Court dismissed an appeal. The group’s administrative center in St. Petersburg, Russia was consequently dissolved, and Jehovah’s witnesses were forced to begin worshiping in secret in their homes after almost 400 local chapters shuttered.
      Meanwhile, many say they have faced systematic harassment by security forces. Since January, members of the group say they have had their homes raided on at least seven separate occasions, four of which took place in April.
      “It’s a new wave of persecution. We don’t know what’s happening,” Yaroslav Sivulsky, a Jehovah’s Witness from Russia who is now living in exile in Latvia, told Newsweek Thursday. “If they wanted to they could put any number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in prison because they know the Jehovah’s Witnesses are worshipping at home and they can find them easily.”
      There are around eight million Christians worldwide who self-identify as Jehovah’s Witnesses, an estimated 175,000 of whom live in Russia. Members of the group, which was founded and remains headquartered in the United States, are often seen knocking on doors and standing in the streets, looking for opportunities to speak with bystanders about their faith. But only a handful of countries, including China, Vietnam, and Russia have banned the group outright.
      All of those countries were included on a recent list of places of particular concern in the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s annual report for 2018. It is the second year in a row that Russia has been included on the list.
      “The [Russian] government continued to target ‘nontraditional’ religious minorities, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientologists, with fines, detentions, and criminal charges under the pretext of combating extremism,” the report read. “Most notably, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned outright, as was their translation of the Bible, and their followers persecuted nationwide.”
      The report’s findings are in line with what many Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia describe.
      “On April 20, law-enforcement officers searched the homes of several of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including three former members of the local religious organization in Ivanovo. Igor Morozov was taken to the police station. Mr. Morozov was later released, but is not allowed to leave Ivanovo,” Jarrod Lopes, a representative of the Jehovah’s Witnesses world headquarters, told Newsweek about one of the latest events in Russia.
      “On April 19 in Vladivostok, Russia,   police raided a religious service attended by Valentin Osadchuk and three elderly women. All four were taken to the police station and interrogated. Valentin remains in custody and has been charged under Article 282.1 of the Criminal Code, ‘organizing the activity of an extremist organization.’ Mr. Osadchuk is being kept in pretrial detention until June 20, 2018,” Lopes added.
      These events follow on the heels of similar events in the Russian cities of Polyarny, Ufa, Oryol, Belgorod, and Kemerovo, he noted. Russia also brought extremism charges against a 46-year-old Danish Jehovah’s witness named Dennis Christensen. He was held in pre-trial detention for 11 months, and on April 3 a judge in Oryol quickly adjourned his preliminary hearing after he asked for more time to review the materials of his case. He could be jailed for 10 years if found guilty. 
      “The Russian authorities’ ruthless persecution of Jehovah’s Witness adherents has been picking up steam,” Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Dropping the case against Christensen would be a good first step toward ending the raids and other criminal cases against people who are merely practicing their faith.”
      http://www.newsweek.com/jehovahs-witnesses-russia-ban-police-903021
    • By James Thomas Rook Jr.
      FSB starts detaining Jehovah’s Witnesses on Kola, dozens flee to Finland
      Criminal cases are initiated after FSB and Rosgvardia raided six addresses in the closed navy town of Polyarny.
      By Thomas Nilsen - The Independent Barents Observer
      April 20, 2018
      Last April, a ruling by Russia’s Supreme Court banned all Jehovah’s Witnesses organizations throughout the country, arguing the religious group to be extremist.
      On Friday, Murmansk regional authorities’ newspaper Murmanski Vestnik reports about raids made by FSB and the National Guard of Russia (Rosgvardia) in Polyarny on the Kola Peninsula.
       
      Two local residents were detained under suspicions of being members of the administrative centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, organizing teaching and meetings where reading of banned religious literature took place. Searches were carried out at six addresses in Polyarny.  
       
      The town is home to a naval yard and several of the diesel-powered submarines and other warships of the Northern Fleet have Polyarny as homeport.
       
      The extremist law banning Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia provides for a maximum sentences of 6 to 10 years in jail.
      Meanwhile, a wave of practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses are fleeing Russia. More than a thousand people are now seeking asylum in several European countries, including Finland, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported earlier this winter.
       
      It all started last summer, and that’s when the first Witnesses sought asylum in Finland, spokesperson Veikko Leininen with the organization’s Finnish branch told the newspaper.  Many dozens at least are still to come, he said.
      Press adviser Therese Bergwitz-Larsen with the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) can’t go into details about particular reasons for asylum seekers coming to Norway.
      Unfortunately, we can’t say anything in general on the background for reasons to apply for asylum, since the number [from Russia] is so small, Bergwitz-Larsen tells the Barents Observer.
      Statistics from UDI show that 15 persons came from Russia the first three months this year. In 2017, 58 Russian asylum seekers came to Norway.
      In Russia, the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses are estimated to about 175,000. That be, before the organization was declared extremist. Viewed with skepticism for denying military service, voting and refusal to take blood, the members are seen as both a threat to themselves, their children and public safety.
      Also during Soviet times, the Witnesses were persecuted.   
      Human Right Watch recently called on Russian authorities to drop charges against Danish citizen Dennis Christensen adherent for practicing his faith. Christensen has been in pretrial custody for 11 months in the town of Orel. Human Right Watch argues that Russia is a member of Council of Europe and  a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefore is obligated to protect the rights to freedom of religion and association.
      My note: Russia passed a law in 2015 that basically stated that any CE or ECHR resolution or ruling they disagreed with could be ignored. I think it is a very good idea when governments start rounding up people for gas chambers, concentration or slave labor camps, or prison ... just be somewhere else.
      You may have to abandon everything you and your family ever worked for, with the clothes on your back, but at least when they upholster the living room furniture you left behind ... it won't be with YOUR SKIN.
       
       
       
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    • Yes, Russell does make a distinction for 1844 that goes a little beyond just suggesting it was only a great disappointment for the second coming churches. Yes. He absolutely does. He says that according to the Lord's prediction it was 1844 when the Wise Virgins went out to meet the Bridegroom, 30 years before his arrival in 1874. In the parallel dispensations, of course, this mapped to the time when Jesus was born until his baptism at age 30. 1878 mapped to Jesus' death and resurrection. No. Russell was definitely going beyond the scriptures when he spoke of what may be expected around 1910. (But then, he was going beyond the scriptures with all the other dates, too.)  True. They probably do that just because so many of his early associates were Adventist leaders, preachers and publishers. It's important to note that Russell himself claimed to be embarrassed and ashamed by Adventists, not only for all their failed dates, but for exactly what they were expecting on those dates. It was pretty much ONLY in the area of chronology could we say that Russell remained trapped in Adventist thinking for his entire life after the 1870's. For this reason, Russell had some trouble distancing himself from the failures of Adventism, especially after beginning an early publishing venture with NH Barbour, who had been a Millerite Second Adventist and continued to use Miller's chronology as a foundation for his own, including the year 1844. He absolutely used it as a basis for comparison. He published that it was the wise virgins who came out in 1844, at the same time that the foolish virgins came out in 1844. But he compared the wise and the foolish by saying that those who only stayed stuck on 1844 were foolish, but those who went ahead and began believing that 1874 was the actual date for his arrival (after 30 years of tarrying) were the wise virgins. Being WISE meant accepting the 30 years from 1844 to 1874. Being FOOLISH meant only accepting 1844 and giving up, letting their oil lamps burn out. The LIGHT in their LAMPS was the truth about 1874.
    • For a brief time, Mike Tussin was a roommate of mine. He drove me nuts in taking literally the admonition to read God’s Word “in an undertone day and night.” In time, he learned that he had better not do it in my presence. I logged some of his exploits in No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash. He was one of the most squirrelly characters that you will ever hope to meet, and yet—people are a mix—he had the most telling common sense, knack for nailing aspects of human nature (though mixed with an odd naïveté), no fear whatsoever of man, and the ability to simplify the complex. I can hear him now explaining to someone or other just how it worked with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, composed of anointed Christians. This would have been in the early 1970s. “They study and study their Bibles and one of them notices a point and discusses it with the others. They continue to turn it over and over. If their discussion reaches the point of agreement, that idea finds its way into the Watchtower—that’s how God’s people are fed spiritually today. “Now, in your own personal study, you may have noticed that point, too, maybe even before they did. And if this was Christendom, you’d go out and start your own religion over it.”  He captured it. I like the idea of ‘they’re not the only people who can think’ as well as the notion of waiting on headship and not running ahead. Present your idea, but if it doesn’t get adopted, don’t lose your cookies over it. The ship cannot sail in every direction at once. Rumor has it that Sputnik came up for discussion at the Bethel table after 1957, but it was aborted before takeoff. Might that date not be a milestone in the last days stream of time commencing with the outbreak of World War I in 1914–a year marking the first time in history that the entire world went to war at once? Throw in the greatest plague of history, the Spanish flu of 1917, the colossal food shortages that always accompany colossal war, and viola!—one is powerfully reminded of Luke 21:10: Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another food shortages and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and from heaven great signs.”  Might 1957 Sputnik mark a mighty exclamation mark in “fearful sights and great signs from heaven?” It certainly scared the bejeebers out of the Americans, and within 3 years President Kennedy declared that the US would not play second fiddle to the Russians. They would join—and so make it—a “space race” by sending a man to the moon. It is worth a simulated launch, I guess—presenting the idea at Bethel—three GB members batted about the idea, I’m told, but I’m glad that it blew up on the pad. The “fearfulness” would have been lost on most people. Did the race have military implications? Relatively few catch the implications of anything. They take it at face value, as it was popularly repackaged just a few years later: Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before! On a flight to Damascus, Bill had a vision of such. Some strange fellow that he probably took for an angel presented the idea to him right there as he was riding in the Shatner seat. Like Saul, it disoriented him completely for a time, and the other passengers heard of the disturbance, sure enough, but witnessed nothing themselves. As a boy, I never once trembled when they launched a rocket from Cape Canaveral. I always took it in the spirit of advancing technology, advancing exploration, and so forth. It’s one of the few major accomplishments of men that has NOT been quickly put to military use—though that could ever change—the way that airplanes were. No sooner had they been invented then they were strafing the towns of Europe and dogfighting each other in the skies. In contrast to 1957, World War I was not only perceived by just about everyone, but it was instantly perceived as a negative. Probably that’s what the other GB members pointed out, sending the three Bethel “astronauts” pitching the notion hurtling off like Darth Vader in his crippled craft, careening off to the pantry for a donut or two. Hmm. Maybe an update could incorporate robocalls from the cloud. What year did they begin? Truly, they cause men to raise their faces and curse the heavens. Truly, they too, are instantly perceived as a great evil, as any time-share owner in the Everglades knows. You know, as I read the 1960 speech, I can see how the idea might come up for discussion at Bethel. Despite my innocuous take expressed about it—a take that has mostly played out (but may someday not)—there certainly were military overtones—overtones that just might make some tremble—in JFKs speech rallying Americans to support a moon launch. Everything must be considered in its own historical context. I’ve added italics to his words that play this way: “We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours. “There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?  “We choose to go to the Moon...We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.” ..... Yes, you could read a measure of terror into that speech if you were of a mind to, though I did not as a boy. The President says: “Space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.” What are the chances of that happening?  
    • You know, I can see how the idea might come up for discussion at Bethel. Despite my innocuous take expressed about it—a take that has mostly played out (but may someday not)—there certainly were military overtones in JFKs speech rallying Americans to support a moon launch.  We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours. There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon...We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.
    • Good start. Just noticed the latest post. Does Russell make any distinction for 1844 other than to suggest it was a great disappointment for the second coming churches? Did he use 1844 to further his calculation? Does he mention 1844 to be part of his calculation? Does he stipulate 1910-1911 is referenced in scripture? It far more interesting, that some continue to project Russell as an Adventist, when Russell was “clearly” criticized for having a negative view of Adventist. It speaks volumes to those that continue to portray a false narrative. “So today, when prophetic time or anything relating to the Lord’s Second Advent is mentioned, many Cry ‘Adventist,’ as if to say, ‘Can any good thing come out of Adventism?"- even though they admit that many prophecies containing time are not yet fulfilled, and that the second coming of the Lord is the most prominent topic of Scripture." "We have great sympathy for both the First Adventists (the Jews) and the Second Adventists, though only a few of either realized the truths they So nearly apprehended, yet failed to grasp, each being blinded by false expectations. Our Adventist friends have failed to recognize both the manner and the object of the Lord’s return as taught in the Scriptures; consequently they have not been expecting to ‘see him as he is,’ but as he was. They consider the object of his coming one which will fill the hearts of all except the saints with dismay and terror; that his object is to gather the elect, destroy all others of mankind, and burn up the world."   Interesting how conflicted people start with William miller’s account of chronology, 1844. I wonder if Brown and Miller were the only ones to make calculations on the 1260 days, 2520 days. CHRONOLOGY--Prominent Dates. Q76:1: QUESTION (1910)--1--Should we consider it necessary to call attention to other Prominent dates than 1874, 1878, 1881 or 1914? Should 1911 be included?   ANSWER--I am glad that question is there, my dear brothers and sisters. You will notice that in my own teachings and writings I am careful to avoid any other dates than these. I know nothing about other dates. In the third volume of Scripture Studies there is a suggestion, but it is offered only as a suggestion, merely that a certain measurement in the Pyramid (not in the Word of God) Looks as though it might point down to 1910 or 1911, but we do not say that it does mean anything, but merely throw out a suggestion. Don't anticipate, don't say things are to occur, for we do not know, at least I don't, and don't believe anyone else does. My advice is to follow the Apostle when he says, "We speak those things that we know." Don't say anything about those things that you do not know. Quite likely you will wish you had not after a while. Nineteen hundred and fourteen is the time when the "Gentile Times" will end. What does that mean? I do not know, but I think it is when God lets go in a general sense of the word, and permits things to take their course; and we can readily suppose, as the Apostle says, that the course of nature would be set on fire, because of strife. In the world of mankind, I shall expect a time of great trouble, which the Bible marks out as having its beginning about October, 1914, but I think, dear friends, that it is more important, instead of telling of the time of trouble, to tell about the good things. The poor people who get into the time of trouble will have all they want of it then. I have enough now, and so have you. The Scriptures say that through much tribulation shall we enter the kingdom, and if we pay attention to our duties, we will get enough without taking time to tell them about the time of trouble. The world will not be profited by our telling, either. We do not wish to scare anybody. It is indeed a spectacle, when that kind of suggestion is made by a conflicted person. Were there any earlier works of Miller 1844 disappointment? History shows, there were some. Some that paint a more precise picture than that of Miller. Therefore, Russell did not have any influence with Miller’s 1844 prediction nor did Russell use it as basis for comparison. "When the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; when the earth and the works that are therein shall be burnt up."   At the present time the blessings of peace seem to be nearly general throughout the nations of the earth. This I deem a very favourable sign. War, however, with its train of abominations, may not finally terminate till about A. D. 1914, or perhaps A. D. 1956; neither do I think that the seventh thousand years, or great Sabbath of the world, or the beginning of Christ's third day, will commence before A. D. 2046 ; and this belief or conclusion I take to be no less deducible from a variety of the prophetic numbers, than from the figurative language employed by Christ concerning the three days, and the three measures of meal, during the time of which the whole world shall be gradually leavened by the kingdom of God.   As I have calculated the prophetical numbers, it will be 206 years from A. D. 1840, before the beginning of the seventh thousand years, or the great Sabbath of the world, when God's rest shall begin to be glorious, and when Christ, that glorious Sun of Righteousness, by the brightness of His coming into those temples, It is indeed sad when people try so hard to end up empty. As stated earlier by an architect of misrepresentation said, it’s an embarrassment. I agree it is.
    • It is worth a simulated launch, I guess—presenting the idea—but I’m glad that it blew up on the pad. It would have been lost on most people. Relatively few catch the implications of anything. They take it at face value—“Space: The final frontier: these are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise—it’s continuing mission: to seek out new world’s, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” On a flight to Damascus, Bill had a vision of such. Some odd fellow that he took for an angel presented the idea to him right there on the Shatner wing. Like Paul, it disoriented him completely for a time, and the other passengers heard of the disturbance, sure enough, but witnessed nothing themselves. As a boy, I never once trembled when they launched a rocket from Cape Canaveral. I always took it in the spirit of advancing technology, advancing exploration. It’s one of the few accomplishments of men that has NOT been quickly put to military use, as airplanes were.  In contrast, WWI was not only perceived by just about everyone, but it was instantly perceived as a negative. Probably that’s what the other—how many were there then—GB members pointed out, sending Bert and his co-astronauts scuttling off to the pantry for a donut. Robocalls from the cloud, on the other hand, ARE perceived as an instant evil, as any time-share owner in the Everglades knows.
    • If you think they use it for their own purposes then why do you donate?  That is not logical. It depends on what you define as own purposes, private purposes, public purposes, necessities, etc.  I think you really should be more thankful to be associated with the organization and what it does for us.
    • My donations are always by check, and written thereon is "for local needs". It's like paying taxes, some of which are used to make hydrogen bombs, and ICBMs. Not my problem. Jesus and the Apostles needed NONE of those things you mentioned, Arauna. If you are NOT inspired of God, as the GB admits they are not ( February 2017 Watchtower), you do need all of those things you mentioned. They are actually essential, as I would freely admit. .... and HEY!, I am just guessing about all of this ... as is everyone else. And Arauna .... did you get NOTHING out of the "Follow Jesus" Assemblies? Jesus set the example . We are either following that example, or ..... WE ARE NOT. The fact of the matter is that the GB DOES use the billions for their own purposes. but, I am, as you stated, "no one to criticize" ... as I do not follow Jesus' example either. If I had that kind of money, I would buy a Chinook double rotor helicopter, instead of Rolex watches, and cartoons of Caleb and Sophia, etc. uh ... for Witnessing on beautiful Pacific Islands, of course ....    
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