via .ORGWorld News
By Srecko Sostar
3) We do not lobby, vote in political elections, run for government office, or try to change governments. …Otherwise, how could we have a clean conscience when we preach the good news that only God’s Kingdom can solve mankind’s problems? source: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2016288#h=36
lobby verb [ I or T ] UK /ˈlɒb.i/ US /ˈlɑː.bi/
C2 to try to persuade a politician, the government, or an official group that a particular thing should or should not happen, or that a law should be changed:
Recent example how WT Company and JW members participated in "lobbying" was writing letters to Russian Government and their politicians.
By Guest Nicole
More than 200 Jehovah's Witnesses - a religious organization banned in Russia - have applied for asylum in Finland. More than 100 members of this organization have arrived in the European country only so far in 2018. According to Juha Simila, representative of the Finnish migration service, about 10 cases have been analyzed so far and, in most of them, Finland rejected the asylum application. Simila explained to the Finnish newspaper Aamulehti that some denials have been appealed to the court and that in one of the cases the negative decision of the migration service has already been confirmed.
Read more: https://mundo.sputniknews.com/religion/201808221081407393-testigos-jehova-rusos-piden-asilo-en-finlandia/
Immigration This is how they treated us: children separated from their parents at the border tell of their days in detention in the United StatesBy Guest Nicole
Many of the children described conditions at US Customs and Border Protection facilities, where they were taken and processed during the first days after crossing the border. In the reports they were only identified by their first names. Timofei, 15, from Russia, who sought asylum on the border with his parents for his beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses, said they were crowded night and day in the closed and crowded room, detained along with other boys. He said there was only one window that opened onto an empty hallway and that they did not have soap in the bathroom, and that only sometimes, they gave him a toothbrush for individual use. He also said that he was offered a shower when he arrived at the facilities in San Ysidro, California, but he did not and the second or third day there did not allow him to do so.
By Guest Nicole
(Moscow) – Law enforcement authorities acrossÂ RussiaÂ have carried out a sweeping campaign against JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in recent months, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities have carried out dozens of home searches, raids, interrogations, and other acts of harassment and persecution.
The authorities are holding 18 men in pretrial detention on charges of organizing, participating in, or financing the activities of an Â“extremist organizationÂ” solely for their religious activities. Several others are facing the same charges and are under house arrest or subject to travel restrictions. The charges carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence. RussianÂ authorities should release those in detention immediately, drop the charges, and halt the persecution of JehovahÂ’s Witnesses.
Â“The JehovahÂ’s Witnesses are simply peacefully exercising their right to freedom of religion,Â” saidÂ Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. Â“The JehovahÂ’s Witness faith is not an extremist organization, and authorities should stop this religious persecution of its worshipers now.Â”
Human Rights Watch interviewed four lawyers defending JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in five regions and a representative of the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses. Human Rights Watch also reviewed court documents, media reports, Russian government statements, and Federal Security Service (FSB) photos and videos purporting to show the raids.
The raids and arrests stem fromÂ an April 2017 Russian Supreme Courtruling that banned all JehovahÂ’s Witnesses organizations throughout Russia. The ruling declared the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses Administrative Center, the head office for 395 JehovahÂ’s Witnesses branches throughout Russia, an extremist organization and ruled that all 395 be shut down. The ruling, which affects more than 100,000 JehovahÂ’s Witnesses across Russia, blatantly violates RussiaÂ’s obligations to respect and protect religious freedom and freedom of association.
Russian authorities should reverse the ban on the organizationÂ’s activities and remove the Â“extremistÂ” designation, Human Rights Watch said. Meanwhile, they should leave JehovahÂ’s Witnesses free to practice their faith.
JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Russia and other former USSR countries have faced persecution in the past. During the Soviet era, they were arrested and imprisoned in labor camps, including in Siberia. Within the past decade,Â worshipers across Russia have faced persecution, intrusive home searches, andÂ arrests, and have been denied rights to freedom of assembly, association, and religion.
In 2010, theÂ European Court of Human Rights ruled against RussiaÂ for closing the Moscow branch of the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses and refusing to allow the group to re-register. The court found violations of articles 9 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protect freedom of religion and association, respectively. In addition to awarding monetary damages, the court said that Russia should review the domestic decisions that led to the violations. Russia has refused to carry out the judgments in that case andÂ several othersÂ brought by members of the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses. On the contrary, Russia has continued to persecute JehovahÂ’s Witnesses, seeking the groupÂ’s complete dissolution in Russia.
From April to June 2018, law enforcement raids targeted JehovahÂ’s Witness communities in at least 11 regions throughout Russia, from Saratov region in southwestern Russia to Primorsky Krai in RussiaÂ’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, RussiaÂ’s criminal investigation service. Â
The authorities, who obtained search warrants or entry permits in most cases, confiscated personal computers, mobile phones, bank cards, passports, religious literature, and, in some cases, housing deeds. Dozens of JehovahÂ’s Witnesses, including at least one child, were taken to local investigative offices for questioning. Others were detained and later charged.
A lawyer representing a JehovahÂ’s Witness who is in pretrial detention in Murmansk Region told Human Rights Watch that the authoritiesÂ’ actions contradict religious freedom guarantees in the Russian Constitution. Â“The [Russian] constitution says that you canÂ practice your faith togetherÂ with others, but as it turns out, thatÂ’s a crime,Â” said Yegiazar Chernikov, of the Sverdlovsk LawyersÂ’ Association.
In at least two regions, armed officers threatened the worshipers with firearms, in one case pointing a gun at a personÂ’s head, a lawyer familiar with the incident told Human Rights Watch.
A JehovahÂ’s Witnesses representative told Human Rights Watch that approximately 160 JehovahÂ’s Witnesses have fled Russia to seek refuge abroad.
On June 20, RussiaÂ’s Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights announced that it hadÂ asked the prosecutor generalÂ’s officeÂ to verify the legality of criminal prosecutions against JehovahÂ’s Witnesses practicing their faith. A week earlier, several of the spouses of the men in pretrial detention hadÂ 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 Â– including several members of Memorial, RussiaÂ’s foremost human rights group Â–Â signed and publishedÂ an open letter urging the authorities to immediately release those in detention and to reverse the Supreme CourtÂ’s decision to liquidate the JehovahÂ’s WitnessesÂ’ organization.
JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Russia Â– like all people in Russia Â– 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 oneÂ’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 theÂ Church of Scientology, theÂ Salvation Army, and theÂ JehovahÂ’s Witnesses
Â“Russia should do right by its national and international obligations to respect freedom of religion,Â” Denber said. Â“Russian leadership should make sure that law enforcement is honoring and protecting that right, not trampling on it.Â”
Raids Aimed at Intimidation
The JehovahÂ’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.Â
In most regions, the authorities arrested people they singled out as leaders and organizers of the local JehovahÂ’s Witnesses community for such actions as recruiting new members and distributing religious literature that the authorities label Â“extremist.Â”
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 JehovahÂ’s Witnesses reported that about 150 law enforcement personnel raided the homes of at least nine JehovahÂ’s Witnesses, confiscating photos, bank cards, money, and computers. An officialÂ reportedly saidthat the operation was code-named Â“Judgment Day.Â” One person was arrested and charged with organizing activities of an Â“extremist organizationÂ” but wasÂ released from pretrial detentionÂ 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. AÂ video posted on the Murmansk Investigative CommitteeÂ’s websiteÂ 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 aÂ JehovahÂ’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 Â“extremist organizationÂ” and faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence if convicted. He hasÂ 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 JehovahÂ’s Witness in Orel, 55-year-oldÂ Sergei Skrynnikov, was charged on May 8, 2018, with participating in the activities of an Â“extremist organization.Â”
A lawyer who is defending three JehovahÂ’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 JehovahÂ’s WitnessesÂ’ activities Â– for which they said they had warrants Â– as part of the investigation. In some cases, the lawyer said, authorities placed recording devices in JehovahÂ’s WitnessesÂ’ 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,Â raided at least seven homesÂ of JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in the city of Saratov and village of Shirokoe. According to the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Russia,Â special forces officers broke down doorsÂ and confiscated computers, books, notebooks, photographs, bankbooks, and passports. The authorities took at least 10 people to FSB offices for questioning.
ThreeÂ were detained and chargedÂ with organizing activities of an Â“extremist organization.Â” 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 enforcementÂ raided several homes and cars belonging to JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in TomskÂ between 10 a.m. on June 3 and about 2 a.m. the next day, the JehovahÂ’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 JehovahÂ’s Witness residents in Tomsk. Investigative authorities allege that worshipers studied prohibited, Â“extremistÂ” religious materials and carried out organized religious activities in violation of the Supreme CourtÂ’s ruling against the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses Administrative Center.
Representatives of the JehovahÂ’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 Â“extremist organization,Â” and will remain in pretrial detention until August 4.
Magadan, Magadan Region
The JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in RussiaÂ reportedÂ 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 Â“extremist organizationÂ” and will remain in pretrial detention until July 29.
Naberezhnye Chelny, Republic of Tatarstan
Police and FSB officials searched the homes of 10 JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in the city of Naberezhnye Chelny, in south-central Russia, on the evening of May 27. The JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in RussiaÂ reportedÂ that the searches lasted Â“well into the night.Â”
Investigators arrestedÂ Ilham Karimov, 37; Vladimir Myakushin, 30; Konstantin Matrashov, 25;Â Â Â Aydar Yulmetyev, 24, on suspicion of organizing and participating in the activities of an Â“extremist organizationÂ” and placed them in pretrial detention until July 25. The Naberezhnye Chelny City Court displays records of all four hearings.Â According to the religious freedom monitoring group Forum 18, Karimov, Myakushin, and Matrashov have appealed their pretrial detention.
Perm, Perm Krai
The JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Russia reported that on the evening of May 22, Aleksandr Solovyev, 48, and his wife, Anna, wereÂ detained at the railway stationÂ in Perm, in the Ural Mountains region, after returning from a trip abroad. Law enforcement then searched the coupleÂ’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.Â According to Forum 18, he is being investigated on charges of participating in the activities of an Â“extremist organization.Â”
Before the 2017 Supreme Court ruling banning the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses Administrative Center, Solovyov chaired the Perm JehovahÂ’s Witnesses congregation,Â according to the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Russia website.
Birobidzhan, Jewish Autonomous Region
On May 17 in Birobidzhan, southeast Russia,Â police raided the homes of at least nine JehovahÂ’s Witnesses. The raids were carried out by approximately 150 law enforcement officers. An officialÂ reportedly saidthat the operation was code-named Â“Judgment Day.Â”
On May 18, 55-year-old Alam Aliev was placed in pretrial detention until July 13 under suspicion of organizing activities of an Â“extremist organization.Â” TheÂ FSB statedÂ that its request to detain Aliev Â“was motivated by the fact that the crime is classified as graveÂ” and because Â“[t]he suspect may impede the criminal proceedings, put pressure on witnesses, and also evade investigative and judicial authorities.Â” Following an appeal by AlievÂ’s lawyer,Â Aliev was released from detention on May 25Â 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 JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in the region, told Human Rights Watch that nine people were charged with organizing or participating in the activities of an Â“extremist organization.Â” 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 raidsÂ posted on the Orenburg Investigative Committee websiteÂ show FSB officials and riot police in bulletproof vests and masks approaching JehovahÂ’s WitnessesÂ’ residences.
A statement by the Orenburg Investigative Committee said that investigative operations were Â“carefully planned and organizedÂ” by law enforcement with the aim of Â“seizing documents and items relevant to the criminal case, as well as identifying other persons involved in unlawful activities.Â”Â Investigators allegeÂ that the suspects Â“organized activities of a subdivision of JehovahÂ’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.Â”
Shuya, Ivanovo Region
Forum 18 reportedÂ that law enforcement raided four homes in the town of Shuya, western Russia, early on the morning of April 20.
Dmitry Mikhailov, 33, wasÂ 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 Â“financing extremist activities.Â” Â
On April 20, the Ivanovo Region Investigative CommitteeÂ released a statementÂ about the home searches, alleging that since the beginning of 2018, JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Shuya had been studying literature Â“containing statements degrading human dignity . . . and elements of propaganda of the exclusivity of one religion over another.Â”
Vladivostok, Primorsky Krai
Several homes belonging to JehovahÂ’s Witnesses wereÂ reportedly raidedon April 19 in the far-east city of Vladivostok.
Human Rights Watch was able to confirm that on April 23Â Valentin Osadchuk, 42, was placed under arrest by Frunzensky District Court on charges of participation in the activities of an Â“extremist organizationÂ” after authorities searched his home and confiscated computers, notebooks, and other devices. He remains in pretrial detention until September 20. Representatives of the JehovahÂ’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 CommitteeÂ stated on its websitethat National Guard officers and FSB officials who led the home searches confiscated computer drives and religious literature. AÂ video posted to the websiteÂ 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 Â“organized activities of the religious organization [JehovahÂ’s Witnesses] by convening and holding meetings, organizing the recruitment of new members, and leading studies of religious texts at meetings.Â”
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. MarkinÂ’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 Â“may continue criminal activities, threaten participants in the legal proceedings, hide or destroy evidence, and also fail to attend preliminary court hearings.Â” On June 4, MarkinÂ’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 groupÂ Forum 18 reportedÂ 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 JehovahÂ’s Witnesses who was detained said that authorities threatened worshipers with weapons,Â in one case holding an automatic weapon to a personÂ’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 Â“extremist organization,Â” and placed in pretrial detention. VilikevichÂ’s lawyer, Vitaly Svintsov, who appealed the order, told Human Rights Watch that on June 21 the Supreme Court of Bashkortostan overturned the lower courtÂ’s decision and placed him under house arrest.
A statement by theÂ Bashkortostan Republic Investigative Committeealleged that Vilikevich had organized a local chapter of the banned JehovahÂ’s Witnesses Administrative Center. Investigators who searched his home confiscated Â“prohibited literature,Â” the statement said.
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.
Â Â©2010 Reuters/Alexandr Tyryshkin
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
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)
WIVES OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES IMPRISONED IN RUSSIA SEND LETTER TO PUTIN ADVISER BEGGING FOR AN END TO CAMPAIGN OF TERRORBy 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
Alexey Navalny's campaign coordinator in Chelyabinsk is reportedly caught with illegal religious literatureBy 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.
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).
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:
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:
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.”
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.
By James Thomas Rook Jr.
Siberian Jehovah's Witnesses try to shield property from confiscation
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES' REAL ESTATE DEAL RULED FICTITIOUS
RIA Tomsk, 15 March 2018
The Seversk city court ruled a transaction regarding real estate belonging to Jehovah's Witnesses to be fictitious. The property was transferred to federal ownership; similar cases are now being reviewed in another two district courts in Tomsk oblast. How and why this is happening is the topic of this RIA Tomsk article.
The prosecutor's office acted as the initiator of a judicial investigation in Seversk (a satellite town of Tomsk). It sent a plaintiff's declaration to the Seversk city court for challenging the real estate deal on the part of Jehovah's Witnesses in Seversk. According to the prosecutor's office's account, the transaction bears a fictitious character and is intended to prevent the transfer of the property to the ownership of the Russian federation.
Earlier, federal news media reported that in October 2016, a court issued a warning to the "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" regarding extremist activity. In March 2017, the Russian Ministry of Justice filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court for finding the organization extremist, preventing its activity, and liquidating it, and it also suspended the activity of the movement within Russia. The lawsuit was granted on 20 April 2017.
After the filing by the Russian Ministry of Justice (25 March 2017) of the administrative plaintiff's declaration in the Russian Supreme Court for the liquidation of the "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" and 395 local religious divisions that are part of its structure, the organization's property was transferred by the court to state income.
However law enforcement agencies thought that local religious organizations, on order from the administrative center, undertook measures for shielding assets on the basis of fictitious transactions.
An example of such a transaction was discovered in the ZATO [closed administrative territorial formation] of Seversk in Tomsk oblast. The oblast prosecutor's office challenged the sales transaction of the premises of a house of worship by the Seversk organization of Jehovah's Witnesses.
"The prosecutor's office of Tomsk oblast filed plaintiff's statements in the Seversk city court regarding the illegal alienation of immovable property of local religious organizations, the North Tomsk Jehovah's Witnesses and the Seversk Jehovah's Witnesses, by fictitious transactions. They had been eliminated from the Uniform State Register of Legal Entities in August 2017," a source in law enforcement agencies of the region explained.
He said that on 10 March 2017, the Seversk religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses concluded a fictitious contract for sale of a building belonging to the organization and located in Seversk at 3 Komsomolskaia Street. At the same time, funds were not received in the organization's account. The investigation does not rule out the possibility that the money simply was appropriated by the leadership of this organization, which includes local bureaucrats.
"The investigation established that Andrei Sergeevich Ledyaikin acted as the seller; he is a member of the committee of the 'Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia,'" the source stressed.
The prosecutor's office of Tomsk maintained that this transaction was fictitious and aimed at the prevention of the transfer of the building and land to federal ownership. The court recognized the correctness of the prosecutor's office. In addition, similar cases now are ongoing in the October court of Tomsk and the court of Asino.
Religious or commercial structure?
According to information from public sources, the parent organization of Jehovah's Witnesses is registered not as a religious but as a commercial structure. More precisely, as a publishing house created in the U.S.A. The activity of Witnesses was prohibited in Russia on 20 April 2017 by the Russian Supreme Court for extremist activity. This was by no means a unique incident; this organization is considered dangerous in 37 countries, primarily Muslim countries.
In the opinion of a docent of the history faculty of Tomsk State University, Dmitry Konikov, the Jehovah's Witnesses are not a purely religious organization. "But it is still incorrect to call Jehovah's Witnesses just a commercial organization. The commercialization of their activity is a rather recent trend," Konikov told RIA Tomsk.
He said that to define some religious movement as a sect requires understanding from which doctrines its adherents derive.
"A sect, like a heresy, is always the denial of belief in some doctrines asserted by a 'mother' church or teaching. At the same time, in the protestant movement there are many kinds of protestant churches and a single canon simply does not exist; there is no main line from which to depart is considered a heresy," the scholar explained.
Perhaps the most blatant scandal involving Jehovah's Witnessses occurred several years ago in France, news media write. There a court ruled them to be a commercial structure and ordered recovery from the organization of unpaid taxes of more than four million euros. In the opinion of French authorities, the Witnesses conducted not religious but commercial activity. Of course, they appealed the decision to the European court.
According to historical information from TASS, the Jehovah's Witnesses are an international religious organization. It was founded in the 1870s in the U.SA., in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, by a preacher, Charles Russell. The Jehovists deny a majority of Christian doctrines, including the creation of the world, the immortality of the soul, and the doctrine of the Trinity.
Characteristic of this religious movement is the expectation of the imminent end of the world and the establishment of paradise on earth, where those whom the Jehovists consider to be worthy will live eternally. At the same time, it should be noted that none of their predictions of the end of the world have come true.
The doctrines of the movement have frequently been revised. Jehovah's Witnesses maintain that while studying the Bible they come to new conclusions and reject older "mistakes" (for example, veneration of the cross). Jehovists do not recognize governmental institutions and civic obligations, they refuse service in the army, and they forbid blood transfusion, including for children.
Unconditional submission to the will and goals of the organization is required from each adherent to the teaching. Nobody has the right to depart from it independently. The movement cultivates and supports among its devotees hostility to those who do not acknowledge its teaching. Because of this, Jehovists are often accused of inflaming religious hatred and many call it a sect.
The main activity of Jehovah's Witnesses is the spreading of their teaching and the sale of their own literature. In the U.S.A. they have the possibility of conducting propaganda on radio and television. In order to advance its goals the movement uses a number of legal entities, the oldest and most well known of which is the "Watchtower Society." The funds of the organization are collected by contributions and sale of printed products, purchased and produced by adherents.
The movement has a multi-layered administrative structure, headed by the Governing Body, consisting of ten to fifteen persons; as a rule, membership in it is life-long. The total number of active members of the movement is estimated to be about eight million persons. Jehovah's Witnesses' activity is forbidden in many countries, including China, North Korea, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 March 2018)
Editorial disclaimer: RRN does not intend to certify the accuracy of information presented in articles. RRN simply intends to certify the accuracy of the English translation of the contents of the articles as they appeared in news media of countries of the former USSR.
JEHOVAH WITNESSES AND OTHER SO-CALLED RELIGIOUS GROUPS ARE NOW BANNED IN SISTER REPUBLIC LUGANSK, THE JEHOVAH SECT WERE CAUGHT HELPING UKRAINE GESTAPO AND NEO-NAZI GROUPS !By Guest Nicole
The law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations passed by the LPR parliament bans the activity of religious groups in the Republic, acting LPR Culture, Sport and Youth Minister Dmitriy Sidorov told a news briefing at Lugansk Media Centre.
Jehovah Witnesses sect whose members helped Ukrainian secret services and neo-Nazi groups ~ LPR parliament approves law banning religious groups’ activity in Republic ~
“We removed the notion of religious group from the law (on Freedom of Conscience),” Sidorov said. “It was necessary for clear understanding of the faith professed by this or that organisation.”
“Relgious groups are expressly forbidden. A religious group is an organisation comprising five members which has no direct relation to any of the traditional faiths,” the official said.
“A ban on religious groups’ activity outlaws all Jehovah witnesses and the like who have been operating in Ukrainian territory. In LPR they are expressly prohibited, too,” he said.
Under the law, all religious organisations in LPR should go through mandatory registration to legalise their activity.
Earlier, LPR State Security Ministry stopped the activity of a Jehovah Witnesses sect whose members had helped Ukrainian secret services and neo-Nazi groups.
By Guest Nicole
By Israeli Bar Avaddhon
How will it end the proscription of Jehovah's Witnesses? Â I wish to state that the purpose of this article, like all the ones posted so far, is not to see who is right. Humanly speaking, we are all brothers and neighbors to the Russians when even a single brother suffers, we all should suffer with them - Romans 24:15 There is no controversy desire towards the Governing Body, and even on their current scriptural understanding. However, even the author of this article recognizes the supreme importance of paying attention to scripture and explain how, this, decodes current events. Aware that the current situation in Russia will have to expand to other nations (and that includes ours), with the utmost humility and attention we must approach to Scripture without hiding uncomfortable truths. This, despite the delicate and far from cheerful topic, will show how Jehovah knows everything and has everything under control. What can we expect in the near future, particularly in relation to the proscription of Jehovah's Witnesses? The proscription of Jehovah's Witnesses and the preaching is a Bible prophecy? Â As we all know the situation that has developed in Russia in the latter period it is anything but cheerful. The April 20, 2017 the work of our brothers has been declared illegal and the recent appeal, which occurred on July 17 in Moscow, has done nothing but confirm this unjust sentence. This judgment, in addition to imposing the closing of the administrative center with all the consequences, forbids all religious activities. The official story is that the decision of the Supreme Court is located at the following link Â As recognized by the brother Anderson appealed the options, at least in Russia, they have ended. There are no degrees or higher possibility of further appeals in this nation. Brother Mark Sanderson acknowledged, in one of the last video you can find in tv.jw.org site, which because of this ruling is to be expected that religious persecution increases. At Brother Lett question whether there is still a possibility of appeal, Brother Sanderson replied that he would turn to the European Court of Human Rights. With the so-called "provisional measures" the European Court could intervene even trying to block the ruling. Obviously it is not at all certain that a judgment in favor of Jehovah's Witnesses by the European Court of Justice to have the least effect on a sovereign state. The European Court certainly can not decide for a sovereign state, nor a state like Russia, but it is a possibility. So Lett specifically asked, "Mark, you see a parallel in the Bible with the events they have witnessed in the Supreme Court?" Sanderson responded by quoting Matthew 5:11: "... lying against you will say all sorts of evil things" and on this there is little to argue that, whatever they say, and minus any errors, you really ridiculous to compare Jehovah's witnesses to terrorist groups. So Brother Sanderson talked about the excellent experience in the various embassies and how they astound themselves because "their Jehovah's Witnesses" were receiving such treatment. "Jehovah's Witnesses have faced the concentration camps in the Nazi era; it has not stopped the exile in Siberia; we did not stop the hard labor in the Gulag ... and all this thanks to the protection of our God, Jehovah" ( these were the words of brother Sanderson). It 'great to hear this declaration of trust in our loving Father, Jehovah. We all know that, whatever happens, Jehovah will find the right solution in the best and the right time. As mentioned, he has everything under control. However doi every one of us knows very well that whatever idea we can do about a particular issue, it is always the Word of God that we must address. It is absolutely true that our dear brothers, in history, "they faced the concentration camps, were not stopped by exile in Siberia, were not stopped by the hard labor in the Gulag" and all this has happened thanks to ' Jehovah's help, but what we really should ask is ... "what is Jehovah's will for us in the time we're living in?" By studying the history of Israel it is not a mystery to assert that they, many times, fed false expectations about the will of Jehovah. So another question you should ask is ... "What is happening in Russia these days is a specific Biblical prophecy or is part of the general hatred by all nations as mentioned Brother Sanderson?" This question is crucial because if the proscription in Russia is one of many "diatribes" caused by this world, no different from what happened in Mali or Burundi, then the period we are living is not particularly relevant. This situation will have ups and downs, we will be downsized or abolished and we have to wait for something else, something, to see fulfilled prophecies. If this event is similar to what happened in the past, then it's all in doubt (also time) and we have to find something else to observe and which make our scriptural reflections. On the other hand if this event has something special, that is scripturally relevant, then it is up to us to dig in the Scriptures to understand what is really happening, why, and where does that lead. First we try to isolate those involved trying not preclude us to explanations other than those to which we are accustomed. The subjects involved are basically two: the Russian nation and our brothers (recognized and characterized by the work of preaching). To begin with we can see how in Daniel are talking about some horn would have "thrown down the truth" and that the daily sacrifice would be phased out, which, as we know, is the work of preaching - Daniel 8: 9- 12 Who is this horn? Whatever idea we may have about it, we must take into account the words the angel addressed to Daniel. Speaking of this horn, among other things explains the angel ... "And in his heart he will give great tunes, and when freedom from anxieties bring to ruin many. It will rise against the Prince of princes, but he shall be broken without hand "- Daniel 8:25 The official intention identifies this horn as the Anglo-American empire but at this point we have a scriptural issue because from Chapter 11 and Chapter 12 of Daniel we understand clearly that it is the king of the north to be "broken without hand" by Michele - see Daniel 11: 40-44; 12: 1 So, unless we do not want to assert that the book of Daniel it contradicts, or the Anglo-American empire is the king of the north, or the horn may not be the Anglo-American empire. It is the king of the north to suppress the daily sacrifice, to throw truth to the ground, so the only thing to do is to try to understand the identity of this king. Who embodies, today, this king? They are still made outlandish assumptions * (see footnote) but it is clear that to answer this question we must always be borrowed from the Scripture. Seeing by what logic the various rival kings have changed their identity over the centuries, we can immediately weed out many possibilities. The king of the north may not appear at random. As you can also see in the mirror summary of the book "Pay Attention to Daniel's Prophecy!" on pages 228 and 246 (Italian edition), f inora we managed to ricostru ire the identity of their king because or the bloodline or the occupied territories. We pay attention to this. At one point, the identity of the two kings changes (see chapter fourteen) and the whole question is played on the territory of Syria. Syria depicts King of the North while Egypt the king of the south. However, with the intervention of Rome between the two contenders, Antiochus IV (Syrian) should abandon its claims on Egypt. This puts an end to the rivalry between the two kings. Less than a hundred years after Syria became a Roman province. E 'for this reason that we are able to identify Rome as king of the north: the political / geographical connection. It is not the power to identify it as such, although, of course, be a king can face a confrontation with his powerful enemy. Roma not appeared from nowhere drove off, so to speak, the last king of the north (in this case, Syria). The various kings, therefore, may change his identity (the bloodline is not binding) but the next power, to assume the role of the new king, it has to start from the last conquered territory. At least that's the logical thread that is visible around the guide to Daniel. In addition to this it is obvious to assert that the identity of the two kings is not interchangeable . This means that the king of the north can not become king of the south and vice versa. Unlike this distinction it would be meaningless. Following this logic we come to the last two historical re: the Anglo-American Empire and the Third Reich of Hitler (see the book already mentioned on page 268). So far we all agree, is not it? This is also the official understanding. Since it has not been a single dominant king in all the earth, and is therefore not Armageddon arrived, we have to see who won this war in order to understand who their king. Who are the "kings" of the victorious World War II, ie those that led to the defeat of the Third Reich? We can see more on page 257 of the same book. In this photo there are three characters: Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister). Franklin Roosvelt (US President) and Iosif Stalin (Soviet Premier). We have seen that the king of Daniel are not interchangeable. If we have established that the Anglo-American empire is the king of the south, it must remain so. So the logic is very simple and the picture looks even want to take the answer. The United Kingdom, represented by Churchill, may not be the next king of the north and can not be the United States represented by Roosevelt. They are both the king of the south and those remain. That's why all the diatribes on the identity of the king of the north are absolutely useless. Only Russia can be the king of the north regardless of whether today may have a different geography and though there are many post-Soviet states. Russia was not incorporated from any other power, as happened in Syria, and therefore no other nation could have taken its place. There are many other interesting details that go perfectly with this nation; Â Â So Russia is the horn which Daniel saw in reference to the last days and is the nation that has abolished the daily sacrifice. This is precisely what happened April 20, 2017, or should we wait for some other development? We do not know. It may be that there is a twist, and perhaps the European Court will manage to overturn the decision of the Russian Supreme Court. If so, then the abolition of the daily sacrifice (described in Daniel) is still a future event , however due to this king. We can only wait and assess the events as they happen. If this suppression is actually the one described in the scriptures ... what can we expect? Let us allow the Scripture to speak. Daniel 8: 9-12 says, "And one of them popped another horn, small, and it was great toward the south and the east and toward the Decoration. He went on to become great until the army of heaven, so that dropped to the ground part of the army and of the stars, and trampled on. and it gave great arias to the Prince of the army, and he was taken off the [sacrifice] continuous, and he was thrown down the established place of his sanctuary. and gradually it was given a military itself, along with the [sacrifice] continuously, because of transgression, and continued to throw truth to the ground, and acted and had success. " According to these words are we to expect a miraculous deliverance, a "protection" as well as his brother flashed Sanderson? Maybe a political change in our favor? Unfortunately not. On the contrary, comparing other scriptures it understands that this king "will reduce the powerful ruined" including the "holy people" and act effectively. The only way to understand whether this proscription is exactly as described in Daniel, is to see if it will expand to other nations. Furthermore, if this proscription is that described in Daniel, what it is to say that on April 20 are started the 2300 evenings and mornings - Daniel 8:13, 14, 26 What will happen in these 2300 days? What will happen at the end of these 2300 days? If you're curious, go see the articles on this topic. We pay attention to the prophecy. We pray constantly, and we trust in Jehovah. Â Footnote *: Today we discuss whether the king of the north will be China but for the reasons listed above that is not possible. Of course it is possible that China will ally with Russia widening in this way the king of the north identities just as the UK did in his time, with the United States. No chance for Isis, the European Union or some other power that, ultimately, may ally itself with Russia. Â Â
By Guest Nicole
ST. PETERSBURG, January 17 (RAPSI, Mikhail Telekhov) – A ruling to confiscate property worth 881.5 million rubles ($15.5 million) belonging to Jehovah's Witnesses organization banned in Russia has been appealed, the St. Petersburg courts’ press office has told RAPSI.
The appeal was filed by Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania registered in the U.S.
The Jehovah's Witnesses assets included 16 property items in St. Petersburg, according to prosecutors.
A court earlier found that the Administrative Centre of Jehovah's Witnesses transferred its property complex to Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania under a donation agreement on March 1, 2000. However, the court declared the deal fraudulent because the Jehovah's Witnesses continued using the property after its transfer to the foreign organization, and confiscated the property complex in profit of the Russian Federation.
In April 2017, the Supreme Court of Russia ordered liquidation of the Jehovah's Witnesses managing organization and all its 395 local branches. In August, the Administrative Centre of Jehovah's Witnesses was added to the list of banned extremist organizations.
Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization has had many legal problems in Russia. Since 2009, 95 materials distributed by the organization in the country have been declared extremist and 8 Jehovah's Witnesses’ branches have been liquidated, according to the Justice Ministry.
Jehovah's Witnesses is an international religious organization based in Brooklyn, New York. Since 2004 several branches and chapters of the organization were banned and shut down in various regions of Russia.
Persecution in Russia of Witnesses. They are denying alternative service to military service, which is legal in Russia.By Bible Speaks
Persecution in Russia of Witnesses.
They are denying alternative service to military service, which is legal in Russia.
Interviewed by the military commissioner, he replied:
When asked what will happen to Jehovah's witnesses after the prohibition of centralized and local organizations (those who were previously supporters of this doctrine often chose ACS), the military commissioner replied: " there is no cult, no problems ! If the candidate declares his wish to take an alternative service, referring to his membership of this banned organization in Russia, we will not even consider this request. "
By Guest Nicole
The U.S. government banned all use of Kaspersky Lab Inc. software in federal information systems, citing concerns about the Moscow-based security firm’s links to the Russian government and espionage efforts.
All agencies will be required to identify any Kaspersky products they have used within 30 days and develop plans to discontinue their use, according to a directive from Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
“This action is based on the information security risks presented by the use of Kaspersky products,” DHS said Wednesday in a statement. “The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security.”
Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-13/u-s-bans-use-of-kaspersky-software-by-all-federal-agencies
Trial of Bible ends
VYBORG COURT RULES JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES' BIBLE IS EXTREMIST LITERATURE
Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 17 August 2017
Judge Dmitry Yurievich Grishin of the Vyborg city court, a kandidat of jurisprudence and former chairman of the department of civil law of the A.S. Pushkin Leningrad University, announced his decision: to grant the petition of the Leningrad-Finland transport prosecutor; to find "Sacred Scripture—New World Translation" extremist material; to find the brochures "The Bible and it Main Subject," "Science instead of the Bible?" and "How to Improve Health. Five Simple Rules" to be extremist materials; to confiscate the batch of the aforesaid literature. The court's decision has not taken effect and it may be appealed within thirty days. (tr. by PDS, posted 17 August 2017)
BREAKING NEWS | Russian Court Bans New World Translation
On August 17, 2017, the Vyborg City Court in Russia ruled to ban the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT). In Russia, it is illegal to ban a Bible. However, a court-appointed “expert study” claimed that the NWT is not a Bible. The decision to ban the NWT came even after the powerful testimony of experts and the fine argumentation of our brothers, proving undeniably that the NWT is a Bible. In spite of such obvious discrimination, Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide take comfort from Isaiah 40:8, “the word of our God endures forever.” We are appealing the decision.
Russian ban on Jehovah's Witnesses comes into force
17 August 2017
An appeal hearing at Russia's Supreme Court over the ban on Jehovah's Witnesses as an 'extremist' organisation on 17 July 2017 Â— AFPÂ
MOSCOW: Russia's justice ministry said Thursday that it has added Jehovah's Witnesses to its black list, formalising a ban for the Christian movement over alleged "extremist activities".
In a statement, the ministry said that the decision "had entered legal force" to ban the activities of the central organisation of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and also all 395 local offices.
The evangelical movement also appeared in the ministry's online register of banned organisations.
The Jehovah's Witnesses have fought a long legal battle against the ban, culminating in a Russian Supreme Court ruling in July to reject an appeal.
In April, the Supreme Court issued a ruling banning the Christian group and seizing its property.
That decision came after the justice ministry said it had found signs of "extremist activity" within the religious movement and requested that it be banned.
Members of the Jehovah's Witnesses Â– a Christian evangelical movement that was born in the United States in the 19th century Â– consider modern churches to have deviated from the Bible's true teachings. They reject modern evolutionary theory and refuse blood transfusions.
Washington last month called the ruling against the group "the latest in a disturbing trend of persecution of religious minorities in Russia".
There are more than eight million Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide, with some countries classifying the group as a sect.
Its members are known for preaching on doorsteps, where they offer religious literature and attempt to convert people.
In 2004 Russia dissolved the Moscow branch of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2010 that the move had violated the right to freedom of religion and association. Â—Â AFP
Russia puts Jehovah's Witnesses on prohibited organization list
Jehovah's Witnesses organization banned in Russia as extremist
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