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International Delegation Supports Russian Brotherhood

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Outta Here -
James Thomas Rook Jr. -
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Even though the International Delegation "supports the Russian Brotherhood", If any "change" is anticipated as a result, it will not be effective.

Here is the main reason WHY Russia has banned Jehovah's Witnesses.

The answer of "WHY?", is the most elusive of all... you FIRST need to understand their culture.

 

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    • 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")
       
    • By Witness
      The magazine cover below was posted here on the same day I had come across one of its articles. March 1,1979
      "The desire to share with Jesus Christ in the vindication of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty became a most powerful motivating force in the lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It strengthened them to endure the worst persecution that ever befell Jehovah’s Witnesses—during World War II. So Jehovah’s visible organization came off victorious once again to his vindication. For dedicated, baptized persons to share in that victory, what did it take? Faith in Jehovah’s theocratic organization. Did the remnant of spiritual Israelites and their theocratic companions, the “great crowd” of Christ’s “other sheep,” have such victorious faith? Yes!"
      Those were the days, apparently.  I see no further “victories” of such on the horizon for the Watchtower at this time. Unless,  they twist the Russian situation into one of victory, proclaiming their faith in “Jehovah’s organization” helped them endure the persecution that has come upon them. However, many JWs have attempted to flee the country, which doesn’t reflect well on the power of their “haven of refuge”.  (WT 82 9/15 pp. 17-22)  
      How does persecution and horrific deaths of JWs equate to an earthly organization gaining victory, and justifying God?  This “mountainlike” organization was not able to protect them from the terrible Nazi onslaught, nor has it been able to do so today in Russia.  Instead of God justifying himself, the organization justified or vindicated its existence as worthy of praise, as the recipient of one’s unrelenting faith, even in the face of persecution and death.    At the willing sacrifice of many on its behalf, it appears powerful, mighty and victorious. This is how I see the disgusting truth behind the underlying message in the opening Watchtower quote.   
      The organization has a few descriptive terms:
      Jehovah’s “earthly organization” professes to be “no part of the world”:
      As in the first century, so in this twentieth century, Jehovah has an earthly organization. It can be identified by its fruits. Unlike the many religious organizations that are part of the world that is alienated from God and that profess to be his organization, IT HAS NOT ALLIED ITSELF WITH THE POLITICAL GOVERNMENTS OF THE WORLD.   It, therefore, shares none of the responsibility for the unchristian things done by those governments. w65 7/15 p. 427-428 
      A “visible theocratic organization” that has established a “worldly” identity:
      Being adapted to modern conditions and requirements and being obliged to render to Caesar Caesar’s things, the visible theocratic organization today HAS A LEGALLY ESTABLISHED SERVICE AGENCY, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, incorporated in 1884 under the laws of the state of Pennsylvania, United States of America. w54 9/1 p. 533 
      Now notice what the 1884 “official magazine Watch Tower” has to say about organization:
      “We belong to NO EARTHLY ORGANIZATION; hence, if you should name the entire list of sects, we should answer, No, to each and to all. We adhere only to that heavenly organization—‘whose names are written in heaven.’ (Heb. 12:23; Luke 10:20.) All the saints now living, or that have lived during this age, belonged to OUR CHURCH ORGANIZATION: such are all ONE Church, and there is NO OTHER recognized by the Lord.  Hence any EARTHLY ORGANIZATION which in the least INTERFERES with this UNION OF SAINTS is CONTRARY to the teachings of Scripture and OPPOSED TO THE LORD’S WILL—‘that they may be ONE.’ ( Joh 17:11.)” 
      What a beautiful, captivating truth, which led God’s anointed people into eventual idolatry.  We now see that the Watchtower no longer follows this mission statement, but highlights the organization as absolutely necessary to acknowledge as one’s salvation.   Amos 3:5; Luke 21:34-36; Rev 20:7-9  
      w72 6/1 pp. 328-333 – “As we approach the universal war of Armageddon it is vital to stay close to Jehovah’s mighty organization.”
      We have a mighty, mountainlike, theocratic, even “spirit-directed” organization, still unable to protect its people. Judges 10:14; Rev 13:1,7,11,15 
      We also see that the “union of saints” is not possible, since a false priesthood/elder body has INTEREFERED with their ability to be one body under their Head, Jesus Christ.  The Watchtower now states “such efforts (to bond) would cause DIVISIONS within the congregation and work against the holy spirit, which promotes peace and unity”. ( w16 January p. 24)  This is so strictly enforced that the elders have been given authority to spiritually “kill” any who reject their ruling position and the organization’s pseudo stance as “theocratic”.  Col 1:18; Eph 5:23,26,27,30-32; 1 Pet 4:10; 1 Cor 12:24-26; Rev 13:15,16; Matt 24:48-51 
      A lot has happened since 1884 when Russel wrote his words in the Watchtower, hasn’t it, JWs.    He would be disfellowshipped today if he were to voice this belief to the present governing body. 
      Only when all the parts of the body submit to Christ as head, will they find harmony, affection, agreement, and unity,
      according to the arrangement of God, who supplies order and peace. 1 Cor 14:33; 1:10; 7:17; 14:32,40; Rom 9:16
      Those who have humbly submitted to the Body's arrangement by God  (1 Cor 12:18; 11:29,31,32), have found that order and peace, and relief from the confusion which is the condition of those still under "Babylon the Great",
      whose very name, means "confusion" ("Babylon"). (2 Cor 12:20; 1 Cor 1:11,12; 3:3; 4:6,18; James 4:1; 1 Cor 11:19)
      There is little time left for the anointed to recognize what is required of them and to conform,
      leaving behind their rebellion, idolatry, and spiritual fornication, to make peace with God (Isa 1:18-20). If they do, their sins will be washed away (Isa 48:20; Jer 31:11; Matt 24:12).
      and they will be given a white robe....sealed as a vessel of Truth (Zech 3:1-10; Isa 4:2; Ezek 17:22; Zech 4:10).   Pearl Doxsey - "Unity of Christ's Body/Armageddon"
      According to the 1884 WT, INTERFERENCE against the union of the saints is the SIGN OF OPPOSITION to the Lord’s will; and aptly describes the “Man of Lawlessness” who OPPOSES and EXALTS HIMSELF above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the TEMPLE of God, showing himself that he IS God.”  2 Thess 2:4  It is a “disgusting thing standing in the holy place”/Temple of God, an “abomination” representing the spirit-directed “image” of divine authority, which IS the organization. Ezek 44:6-9; Dan 9:27; Exod 20:3-6; Rev 13:11,15,4  
      “They have placed their abominations in the house that bears My name and have defiled it. 35 They have built the high places of Baal in Ben Hinnom Valley to sacrifice their sons and daughters in the fire, (or “pass through the fire”) to Molech—something I had not commanded them. I had never entertained the thought that they do this detestable act causing Judah to sin!  Jer 32:34,35
      Today, to “pass through the fire” indicates to me a dedication and sacrifice of oneself to submit to evil; a fiery proof, contrary to refinement leading to personal victory in Christ.  It is the condemnation based on the Word of God.  Spiritual harlotry and idolatry results when one puts faith in a present day “Molech”, above our required faith in God. 2 Kings 17:17; Lev 18:21; Ezek 20:31; Jer 3:6,7;2 Pet 2:3; 1 Cor 3:13-15; Jer 23:29  
      Baal means “Master”; Molech has the meaning of “master” “king”, but also "the most common word for chief magistrate" (“commander of an army”)    
      Revelation tells us of two Beasts, two Masters, a dual spiritual power over God’s saints and many peoples during the last days. Dan 2:31,33,40-43; 7:7; Rev 13:1,2,11-13  
      They revere or “worship” the first Beast, putting faith in its magnificent “spirit-directed” abilities, to lead them into a promised peaceful paradise. Rev 13:4,14,15; Ezek 13:10; Hos 4:12   For this offer, they are willing to face persecution and the loss of physical life if necessary, on behalf of ”Jehovah’s visible theocratic organization”. 
      The army which the “Beast with two horns” gives authority to, is the “abomination” spoken of in Dan 11:31.  Rev 9:1-6;13:12  With eyes that are open, this transgression against God’s Temple is well observed as ‘sitting in’ and ruling over the anointed Temple of God, as directed to do so by the Beast/false prophet/Harlot.  2 Thess 2:3,4;1 Pet 2:5,9; 1 Cor 3:16,17; Rev 19:20 
      It is the Man of Lawlessness – an army of elders or “magistrates” which has received authority to oppress and “conquer” the anointed ones.  Dan 8:24; Rev 13:7  
      Is the Watchtower Beast/Master truly “conquering” the saints?  Yes.  Conquering is the language of war,  which we are presently in; the war of Armageddon. Luke 21:20; Matt 24:3,24,25; 9-11,13,21; Dan 12:1,4
      They are overcome by demonic expressions issued from the “dragon”, the Beast, and the second Beast/false prophet/Harlot.  Rev 16:13,14; Eph 6:12  For those who stand up to both Beasts, the “kings” and their “magistrates”, and who are persecuted for defending their faith in God and truth in Jesus Christ, they are symbolically “killed”; yet, they come alive in Christ. Mal 3:5; Eph 2:3-8; Rev 11:3,7,11; Matt 19:29    
      It is known among all JWs, that those who take their stand against the GB’s decrees carried out by the elders, are disfellowshipped, which the organization considered a spiritual “death”.  This is the irony in teachings by this Beast.  Those who sacrifice their life on behalf of “Jehovah’s organization” are viewed as the victorious ones. Those who sacrifice their symbolic life for their testimony to Christ are considered worthy of eternal destruction. Jer 23:14; Matt 26:65; Heb 13:13; 12:2; 1 Pet 4:14,16; Rom 6:5; Matt 5:11; John 15:21; Acts 5:41; Rev 3,5,6  
      A movie was made a while back about the prophet Jeremiah.  It is a movie of drama and scriptures combined, but there is one scene at the temple, that I will never forget.  Jeremiah is speaking to Zedekiah the last king of Judah, before the temple was destroyed and Israel went into exile to Babylon. He had earlier pleaded for the nation to submit to Nebuchadnezzar’s rule, but Judah was ready to battle against him.  (Jer 38:14-23) 
      Jeremiah:   “Obey I beseech thee, the voice of the Lord  which I speak unto thee and your life will be saved, and the city will not be burned.”  
      Zedekiah:  “So, now you’re speaking for the Lord again.  Well, never mind, our armies are prepared.”   
      Jeremiah:  “How can you continue to LIE to yourself as well as your people?” 
      Zedekiah:  “TRUTH is in the eyes of the beholder.” 
       Jeremiah:  “The word of the Lord which I speak to thee, IS the truth.” 
      Zedekiah:  “The Lord which you ask me to seek…is SILENCE.  If God has something to say to me, why does he send you to tell me?”   
      Jeremiah:  “Why would the Lord speak to you, unless you’ve committed your life to HIM.” 
      Zedekiah:  “I HAVE.” 
       Jeremiah shakes his head, turns swiftly toward a set of large wooden double-doors, and flings them  open to reveal statues of idols.    
      He says, “Instead of making monuments to false gods, make your LIFE a living monument to the word of God.”   
      Zedekiah:  “It is as my people desire.” 
      Jeremiah:  “You are KING!  They look to YOU for leadership!  Your pursuit of your own pleasure, wealth and power HAVE TAUGHT THE PEOPLE TO TRUST IN FALSE GODS!” 
      He raises his voice even further,
      “YOU HAVE LED THEM TO BELIEVE THAT THE ONE TRUE GOD…IS NOT ENOUGH!” 
      JWs, is God alone NOT ENOUGH for you to put faith in?  Can you see that the faith you give to a most unique idol, a “spirit-directed” visible organization, can lead to your downfall?  Your leaders have convinced you to trust in a false god! The people in Jeremiah’s time believed that the presence of the “temple of the Lord” would save them, even though they harbored their idols.  Jer 7:3-5, 9,10  
      What is your temple today?  Is it the organization?  It appears so, yet if the anointed were not in the Watchtower from the beginning, there would be no difference in your religion than any other in Christendom.  You may have forgotten who they are, these anointed “living stones” whom God expects their sacrifices to be heard and in harmony with pure truth in Christ. However, an “abomination”, a false priesthood of elders, has muscled its way in to rule over God’s Temple priesthood.  Ultimately, JWs DO practice the same hypocritical worship as Judah in Jeremiah’s time, by proclaiming their trust and faith in God, while also having full trust and faith in the organization, and the “kings” who brought them into a falsehood called “truth”.  Your leaders have sought out pleasure and wealth in material possessions, that they admire and praise (Warwick). Luke 4:5-7 They have slowly developed an unquestionable power over God’s anointed and YOU, TEACHING you to revere a monumental idol.  This idol has made the brazen promise of eternal life to those who “worship” it.  As Zedekiah said in the movie, “truth is in the eye of the beholder”.  2 Thess 2:9-12
      When Joshua went up against Ai, they were defeated because one member “committed a trespass” regarding the “things set apart for destruction”, the “accursed”, the “doomed” that he brought into the camp.   Deut 13:17  
      Josh 7:110-12 –“Israel has sinned. They have violated My covenant that I appointed for them. They have taken some of what was set apart. They have stolen, deceived, and put those things with their own belongings.12  THIS IS WHY THE ISRAELITES CANNOT STAND AGAINST THEIR ENEMIES. They will turn their backs and run from their enemies, because they have been set apart for destruction. I will no longer be with you unless you remove from among you what is set apart.” 
      The ”accursed thing” happened to be an eye-catching Babylonian garment. Luke 16:15 A garment from   Babylon -  the destroyer, an accursed city doomed to destruction. Ps 137:8  Garments in God’s word carry a symbolic meaning. It can clarify who or what we identify with; wickedness or righteousness.  Ezek 18:20; Isa 61:10; Ps 109:29  By choosing one or the other, it signifies who we are willing to “sacrifice” our life for.
       Even the rank and file "JW" is eager to surrender their "garment"/individuality/identity, to the Beast they admire...
      as it says in the baptism vow...
      "Do you understand that your dedication and baptism IDENTIFY YOU ("enrobes/dresses you"), as one of "Jehovah's Witnesses" in association with his "spirit-directed" organization?" (John 20:22) (Rev 13:15; 16:13-16; 19:20)
      Yes... they desire an identity that belongs to and is associated with, the powerful...
      and so they too, surrender their robes of individuality/personal reputation of integrity before God, to "don" their new garment/identity, as one of "Jehovah's Witnesses", under blind obedience to it's hierarchy under the wicked steward/harlot.  Pearl Doxsey -  "Our Outer Garment"
      God pointed out to Joshua that His covenant had been violated.  His decrees that he had specifically said should be followed to guarantee their safety, were transgressed.  Josh 1:7,8;6:18,19  Today, God’s covenant with the anointed priesthood has been violated by allowing uncircumcised priests to present the “daily sacrifices” . Deut 21:5; Ezek 44:7; Mal 2:5-9 This is an “accursed thing”, doomed to destruction, that is present among the anointed and YOU.  2 Thess 2:7,8
       “Babylon’s” Harlot daughters direct the Watchtower Beast to lead YOU in supporting the “abomination” that defiles the House that bears God’s name. 1 Cor 3:16,17; Rev 17:3-6 
      YOU wear the garment that indicates who you serve, which is the Beast/Man of Lawlessness.  Surely JWs, you must see that putting “faith in Jehovah’s theocratic organization” is bolstering lawlessness and idolatry!  Should we suffer persecution on behalf of an idol, an idolatrous “MOUNTAIN” that is the SOURCE of persecution for those anointed ones who DESIRE TO BE ONE UNDER CHRIST?   
      Jesus replied to them, “HAVE FAITH IN GOD. 23 Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this MOUNTAIN, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, IT WILL BE DONE FOR HIM. Mark 11:22,23
      The Lord reigns! Let the earth rejoice;
      let the many coasts and islands be glad.
      2 Clouds and thick darkness surround Him;
      righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
      3 Fire goes before Him
      and burns up His foes on every side.
      4 His lightning lights up the world;
      the earth sees and trembles.
      5 The mountains melt like wax
      at the presence of the Lord—
      at the presence of the Lord of all the earth.
      6 The heavens proclaim His righteousness;
      all the peoples see His glory.
      7 All who serve carved images,
      those who boast in idols, will be put to shame.
      All the gods must worship Him. (“gods” – “angels”, Heb 1:6,14; Mal 2:7)
      8 Zion hears and is glad,
      and the towns of Judah rejoice
      because of Your judgments, Lord.
      9 For You, Lord,
      are the Most High over all the earth;
      You are exalted above all the gods.
      10 You who love the Lord, hate evil!
      He protects the lives of His godly ones;
      He rescues them from the power of the wicked.
      11 Light dawns for the righteous,
      gladness for the upright in heart.
      12 Be glad in YHVH, you righteous ones,
      and praise His holy name.  Psalm 97
       
       
       
       
       
       
       



    • Guest Nicole
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    • By Outta Here
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    • 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/
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      Recent example how WT Company and JW members participated in "lobbying" was writing letters to Russian Government and their politicians. 
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    • Guest Nicole
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    • Guest Nicole
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      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.  
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      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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