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    • By The Librarian
      In northern Russia, seven men have come forward to claim they were tortured by police because of their religious views. The men are all Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their organisation was banned by Russia’s Supreme Court in 2017 as extremist and dozens of Jehovah’s Witnesses have since been detained across the country. Officials in Surgut initially denied the reports of torture, but now say they will investigate. President Vladimir Putin has called the prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘utter nonsense’ and asked the Supreme Court for clarification on how the law is applied. BBC correspondent Sarah Rainsford reports.
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      The text of an open letter from Roman Makhnev, who has been kept in a pre-trial detention center for months because of his religion, to the governor of the Kaluga region Anatoliy Artamonov, is published below. The believer draws attention to the violations of his rights and asks for a fair hearing.

    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      On September 2, 2019, Khabarovsk resident Valeriy Moskalenko was sentenced to two years and two months of forced labor and another six months of restriction of freedom for believing in Jehovah God. We have published the text of his last words before the verdict.

    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      At the end of September 2019, a court in the Primorsky Territory decided to release two believers from the pre-trial detention center. Sergey Sergeyev and Yuriy Belosludtsev from Luchegorsk were placed under house arrest. However, cases for faith against them continue to be investigated.

    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      The jailing of six Jehovah's Witnesses in Saratov for up to three and a half years "equates peaceful believers with dangerous criminals", Jehovah's Witnesses complain. The Prosecutor's Office did not respond as to why it considered these men dangerous and should be jailed. A Khabarovsk court sentenced another man to assigned labour for discussing Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.
      Six men in Saratov have become the first Russian citizens to receive custodial sentences after the Supreme Court's 2017 ban on all Jehovah's Witness activity. Konstantin Bazhenov, Aleksey Budenchuk, Feliks Makhammadiyev, Roman Gridasov, Gennady German, and Aleksey Miretsky were jailed on 19 September for between two and three and a half years in a general-regime labour camp (correctional colony). They intend to appeal.
      Aleksey Budenchuk, Konstantin Bazhenov, Feliks Makhammadiyev, Aleksey Miretsky, Roman Gridasov, Gennady German, Saratov
      Jehovah's Witnesses
      The court "ignored" the fact that that the case materials identified "not a single victim and not a single negative consequence of the alleged extremist activity", Jehovah's Witnesses complained. The verdict "equates peaceful believers with dangerous criminals" (see below).

      Neither the Prosecutor's Office nor the Court responded to Forum 18's question as to why they considered these men dangerous and should be jailed (see below).

      A court in Khabarovsk in the Far East ordered on 2 September that another man, Valery Moskalenko, should carry out over two years of assigned labour followed by six months' probation, also for allegedly "continuing the activities of a banned extremist organisation" (see below).

      The prosecution based its argument on a ten-minute recording of Moskalenko reading and commenting on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount at a Jehovah's Witness gathering. A prosecution "expert" claimed that his preaching contained evidence of "the promotion of exclusivity" and "calls for the continuation of the activities of the banned organisation" (see below).

      Moskalenko "was convicted for his faith and the defence will seek acquittal by all legal means, up to an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights", his lawyer Svetlana Gnilokostova told Forum 18 (see below).

      The Prosecutor's Office did not respond to Forum 18's question as to why it had sought to jail Moskalenko and whether it intends to appeal (see below).

      In Perm on 5 September, Jehovah's Witness Aleksandr Solovyov failed to overturn his conviction and fine of about 11 months' average local wages (see below).
      Raids, arrests, trials continue

      In 2017, Russia's Supreme Court banned all Jehovah's Witness activity throughout the country with its decision to declare the Jehovah's Witness Administrative Centre and all 395 local communities "extremist organisations".

      In addition to the September 2019 convictions in Saratov and Khabarovsk, a further 25 Jehovah's Witnesses are currently known to be on trial in eight different locations. In a ninth case, a court in Kostroma sent the case back to prosecutors. Over 200 more people are the subjects of criminal investigation, with many in pre-trial detention or under house arrest (see forthcoming F18News article).

      Becoming the subject of a criminal case under the Extremism Law can have far-reaching effects on an individual's life, even before conviction. Investigators may have suspects placed on the Federal Financial Monitoring (Rosfinmonitoring) "List of Terrorists and Extremists", whose assets banks are obliged to freeze, with the exception of small transactions of up to 10,000 Roubles.

      On 26 July 2019, President Vladimir Putin also signed into law amendments to the Railway Transport Law which bar anyone "in relation to whom there is information about their involvement in extremist activities or terrorism" from driving trains. This will come into force after 180 days.

      FSB, police, National Guard, Investigative Committee, and other officials continue to arrest, interrogate, and detain Jehovah's Witnesses for allegedly "organising" or "participating 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" (Criminal Code Article 282.2, Parts 1 and 2), as well as for the alleged "financing of extremist activity" (Criminal Code Article 282.3, Part 1).

      "The officers often treat the Witnesses as if they were hardened criminals," Jehovah's Witnesses complained in their report to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw in September 2019.

      "Russia is grossly misapplying its own laws to criminally charge the Witnesses with participating in, organising, or financing 'extremist activity'. In reality, the Witnesses are merely peacefully meeting together for worship, reading the Bible or talking to others about their beliefs."

      In addition to criminal prosecutions and the associated detentions and harsh treatment by police and other investigators, the report also notes the prohibition of Jehovah's Witness literature (including their New World version of the Bible), the state confiscation of property, and "at least five cases" of Jehovah's Witness men of military call-up age being denied the right to perform alternative civilian service.
      Earlier convictions
      Dennis Christensen behind windows in court, 28 January 2019
      Human Rights Watch [CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US]
      The first Jehovah's Witness in post-Soviet Russia to be imprisoned for exercising his freedom of religion or belief was Danish citizen Dennis Ole Christensen. An Oryol court handed him a six-year sentence in February 2019. He was accused of "continuing the activities" of the local Jehovah's Witness community in Oryol, which was banned and liquidated in 2016, before the Supreme Court ruling.

      Another Oryol Jehovah's Witness, Sergey Vladimirovich Skrynnikov, was charged with the same offence and given a 350,000 Rouble fine in April 2019. This represents about 18 months' average wages in Oryol for those in formal work.

      The first Jehovah's Witness to be convicted as a result of the 2017 ban was Aleksandr Vasilyevich Solovyov from Perm, who received a fine of 300,000 Roubles in July 2019 (see below).
      Muslims also jailed under Extremism Law

      Muslims who meet to read the works of late theologian Said Nursi are also subject to prosecution, fines, and jailing 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").

      Two are known to be serving jail sentences. A Makhachkala court jailed Artur Abdulgamidovich Kaltuyev for three years in November 2017. A court in Izberbash jailed Ilgar Vagif-ogly Aliyev for eight years in June 2018.

      Yevgeny Lvovich Kim, who was released after a year and ten months' imprisonment in April 2019, was deprived of his Russian citizenship and ordered to be deported to Uzbekistan, his country of birth. At present, he remains in a detention centre for foreign nationals in Khabarovsk. It is not known when he will be expelled from Russia, as Uzbekistan is currently refusing to accept him.

      Two more prosecutions of Nursi readers are underway – those of Denis Vladimirovich Zhukov in Krasnoyarsk and Yevgeny Igoryevich Sukharev in the Krasnoyarsk Region town of Sharypovo. It is unknown when they will come to trial.
      Saratov: Six Jehovah's Witnesses sentenced to imprisonment

      On 19 September 2019, after 12 hearings over nearly three months, Judge Dmitry Larin of Saratov's Lenin District Court found six Jehovah's Witnesses guilty under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1 ("organisation of extremist activity"). He jailed all six for up to three and a half years. They were taken into custody directly from the courtroom.

      Judge Larin handed down these sentences:
      1) Konstantin Viktorovich Bazhenov (born 10 May 1975), three years and six months' imprisonment
      2) Aleksey Vladimirovich Budenchuk (born 27 July 1982), three years and six months' imprisonment
      3) Feliks Khasanovich Makhammadiyev (born 14 December 1984), three years' imprisonment
      4) Roman Aleksandrovich Gridasov (born 16 September 1978), two years' imprisonment
      5) Gennady Vasilyevich German (born 12 June 1969), two years' imprisonment
      6) Aleksey Petrovich Miretsky (born 14 December 1975), two years' imprisonment.

      The judge also imposed a five-year ban on holding leadership positions in public organisations and one year of restrictions on freedom. According to the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, all six defendants insist that they "have nothing to do with extremism" and are intending to challenge the guilty verdict.

      These are the first custodial sentences for Russian citizens under either the Supreme Court's 2017 ruling which outlawed Jehovah's Witness activities nationwide, or the local bans which preceded it, as well as the first conviction under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1 ("organisation of extremist activity") as a result of the 2017 ban.

      The court "ignored" the fact that the case materials identified "not a single victim and not a single negative consequence of the alleged extremist activity", the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses commented on its jw-russia.org news website on 19 September 2019. The charges against the men were based on the assumption that "faith in God is 'continuation of the activities of an extremist organisation'," the Association claimed.

      "Instead of searching for and proving the guilt of the defendants, the prosecutor's office was busy 'proving' their confession of a particular religion, while no religion has been banned in Russia," the Association added. "[The verdict] equates peaceful believers with dangerous criminals."

      In court, the defendants argued that "collective meetings and religious practices of individuals are not related to the activities of local religious organisations, but are the exercise of their constitutional right to freedom of religion", the jw-russia.org news website reported on 11 September. They also explained that were they somehow connected with extremism, they "could not be considered followers of Jesus Christ".

      In their final statements on 18 September, the defendants expressed their confusion as to why they were accused of "believing in God, reading the Bible, [and] singing spiritual songs and prayers", and insisted that they did no harm to anyone.

      Prosecutors had asked for prison terms of seven years each for Bazhenov, Budenchuk, and Makhammadiyev, and six years each for Gridasov, German, and Miretsky.

      Bazhenov, Budenchuk, and Makhammadiyev were in detention for 343 days before being released under specific restrictions for the duration of their trial. Under amendments to the Criminal Code signed into law in July 2018, one day in custody is taken as equivalent to a day and half in a correctional colony. Should their sentence enter legal force, it is therefore likely that Bazhenov and Budenchuk will serve about two years and one month, and Makhammadiyev about one year and seven months.

      Gridasov, German, and Miretsky spent the time since their initial arrest under travel restrictions. Should the verdict enter legal force, the length of their terms of imprisonment will therefore be unchanged.

      Forum 18 wrote to Lenin District Court on 25 September, asking why it had decided that custodial sentences were necessary and in what way the six men could be considered dangerous. Forum 18 had received no reply by the afternoon of the working day in Saratov on 4 October. Forum 18 called Judge Larin's office on 4 October, but the telephone went unanswered.

      Forum 18 submitted the same questions to Saratov Regional Prosecutor's Office on 26 September, also asking whether prosecutors were intending to challenge the sentences imposed. Forum 18 had received no reply by the afternoon of the working day in Saratov on 4 October. When Forum 18 called the Prosecutor's Office press service on 4 October, the telephone went unanswered.
      Khabarovsk: Jehovah's Witness sentenced to assigned labour
      Protest in support of Jehovah's Witnesses, St Petersburg, 23 March 2019
      Tatyana Voltskaya (RFE/RL)
      After seven hearings across nine weeks and over a year in detention, Jehovah's Witness Valery Vasilyevich Moskalenko (born 15 April 1967) was found guilty under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 2 on 2 September. He received a sentence of two years and two months of assigned labour (prinuditelniye raboty) followed by six months of probation.

      Judge Ivan Belykh of Khabarovsk's Railway District Court also imposed a ban on Moskalenko leaving the city for this period and a requirement to report to probation authorities once a month. Prosecutors had requested a three-year prison term.

      The verdict has not yet entered legal force. Moskalenko denies committing any offence and is challenging his conviction. Khabarovsk Regional Court registered his appeal on 16 September 2019, according to the court website; Judge Natalya Bondareva is due to consider it on 10 October 2019.

      "In the actions of Valery Vasilyevich Moskalenko, there was no crime under Article 282.2, Part 1 of the Criminal Code," his lawyer Svetlana Gnilokostova told Forum 18 on 4 October. "He was convicted for his faith and the defence will seek acquittal by all legal means, up to an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights."

      Moskalenko was released directly from the courtroom, having spent 396 days in custody in Khabarovsk's Investigation Prison No. 1. Under the July 2018 amendments to the Criminal Code, one day in pre-trial detention is taken as equivalent to two days of assigned labour. Moskalenko was therefore deemed to have served his sentence.

      If his appeal is unsuccessful, however, he will still be left with a criminal conviction, and will still have to spend six months on probation.

      The judge took account of extenuating circumstances, Moskalenko's lawyer Svetlana Gnilokostova told Forum 18 on 3 October: the defendant's age, the fact he has a heart condition, his role as carer for his ill and elderly mother (with whom he lived prior to his arrest), positive character references, and the lack of a previous criminal record.

      Officers initially arrested Moskalenko on 2 August 2018 during a series of raids on Jehovah's Witness homes in the city. His name does not appear among the founder members of either of the two local Jehovah's Witness communities active in Khabarovsk at the time of the Supreme Court's 2017 ruling, but he was a founder member of the "Oblachnaya" congregation, which was dissolved in 2012 and apparently re-registered under a different name ("Northern") the same year.

      The prosecution based its argument on a ten-minute recording of Moskalenko reading and commenting on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount at a Jehovah's Witness gathering in a conference hall on 21 April 2018, according to the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses.

      An "expert witness" for the prosecution, psychologist Alyona Payevshchik from the Emergencies Ministry, claimed that his preaching contained evidence of "the promotion of exclusivity" and "calls for the continuation of the activities of the banned organisation".

      In his testimony, Moskalenko insisted that his sermon had been peaceful. "In my opinion, this specialist [Payevshchik] is not competent in religious matters," his lawyer Svetlana Gnilokostova told Forum 18. "Giving answers to the investigator's questions, she went beyond psychology and was guided by her personal opinion, which is not legal".

      Forum 18 wrote to Khabarovsk Regional Prosecutor's Office before the start of the Khabarovsk working day of 26 September, asking why prosecutors had sought to jail Moskalenko and whether they intended to appeal. Forum 18 had received no reply by the end of the working day in Khabarovsk on 4 October.

      Forum 18 also contacted Khabarovsk's Railway District Court to ask why Moskalenko had received a assigned labour sentence and whether prosecutors had lodged an appeal. A spokeswoman for the court responded on 3 October, saying only that the verdict had not yet entered legal force and that Moskalenko's lawyer had lodged an appeal, which the district court had passed on to Khabarovsk Regional Court.

      According to Article 53.1 of the Criminal Code and Article 16 of the Criminal Procedural Code, judges impose sentences of assigned labour (prinuditelniye raboty) instead of imprisonment, if they decide that the former will have a sufficient "correctional" effect on the convicted person but find that a suspended sentence is unsuitable. Assigned labour is used as a punishment only for minor or mid-level offences, or for a first-time serious offence (as in Moskalenko's case).

      Where assigned labour is carried out is decided by the prison service – it should be at a correctional centre in the region in which the convicted person lives or was on trial, but people can be sent elsewhere if this is not possible.

      Assigned labour may take the form of any job in any organisation, as determined by the correctional centre administering the sentence. According to the Criminal Procedural Code, this takes into account an individual's age, gender, health, ability to work, and occupational speciality, but the assigned work depends on availability and the convicted person has no right to refuse. Officials check on convicted persons' locations at least once a day.

      Assigned labour sentences can last anywhere from two months to five years (one to four years under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 2; it is not a possible punishment under Part 1). The work is paid, but, if specified in the sentence, deductions of 5 to 20 per cent may be made from wages and paid to the relevant regional body of the prison service.

      Should a convicted person abscond or break the rules, the sentence will be replaced by imprisonment for the same duration.
      Perm: Appeal unsuccessful

      On 5 September, Perm Regional Court upheld the conviction of the first Jehovah's Witness to be found guilty under the Supreme Court's nationwide ban.

      On 4 July, Ordzhonikidze District Court fined Aleksandr Vasilyevich Solovyov (born 13 February 1970) 300,000 Roubles under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 2. This represents about 11 months' average wages in Perm for those in formal work. (END)
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      On September 20, 2019, in Petrozavodsk, Dmitriy Ravnushkin, 44, was detained—right at his workplace. The Witness was taken for interrogation, which lasted about four hours, after which he was released under recognisance agreement. Three days later he was fired. His boss said: “We don’t need problems.”
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      The ban on Jehovah's Witnesses* as a religious organization is no basis for persecuting for faith, but law enforcers ignore it, Maxim Pervunin, a lawyer for four Dagestani believers, has stated at a press conference today. He pointed to parallels of persecutions of Jehovah's Witnesses in modern Russia with the Soviet-time practices.
      The "Caucasian Knot" has reported that on June 1, searches were conducted in four cities of Dagestan. Law enforcers detained and placed behind bars four Jehovah's Witnesses, Arsen Abdullaev, Maria Karpova, Anton Dergalyov and Marat Abdulgalimov. Their relatives and friends claim that charges of extremism have been brought against peace-loving and law-abiding people.
      In modern Russia, the persecution history of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Soviet Union is repeated, Maxim Pervunin said at a press conference. He has noted that the methodology for proving guilt, which is now used by investigative bodies, remains largely the same. However, Mr Pervunin expressed hope that in future believers will be rehabilitated, as it already happened in the USSR.
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      A court in Poland has refused to extradite former vice president of corporate finance at Probusinessbank, Yaroslav Alekseev, to Russia. According to Vedomosti with reference to the local TVP Info channel, the judge considered that Alekseev’s extradition was legally unacceptable, since he was a member of Jehovah's Witnesses, and its members get prosecuted, arrested and sentenced to long terms in Russia.
      Jehovah's Witnesses is recognized as extremist and banned in Russia. In September, the US State Department imposed sanctions against two Surgut investigators, who were believed to have used torture against some of the organization members.
      Alekseev was detained in Poland in February 2019. The decision to arrest the banker in absentia was made by the Basmanny court of the capital in 2017 on charges of embezzlement or larceny on a particularly large scale.
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Russia has widened a crackdown against Jehovah’s Witnesses, jailing six adherents of the Christian denomination for extremism in a move rights activists said was unjust and flouted religious freedom. Russia moves to label Jehovah Witnesses extremists A regional court in Saratov jailed six Jehovah’s Witnesses on Thursday for up to three-and-a-half years, a court spokeswoman said on Friday. “Yes they were convicted,” the spokeswoman, Olga Pirueva, said. “Punishments ranged from three years and six months down to two years (in jail).” The court found the six men guilty of continuing the activities of an extremist organization, a reference to a 2017 ruling from Russia’s Supreme Court which found the group to be an “extremist” organisation and ordered it to disband, Reuters reported. The US-headquartered Jehovah’s Witnesses have been under pressure for years in Russia, where the dominant Orthodox Church is championed by President Vladimir Putin. Orthodox scholars have cast them as a dangerous foreign sect that erodes state institutions and traditional values, allegations they reject.

      Read more at: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2019/09/russia-intensifies-jehovahs-witnesses-crackdown-with-new-jailings/
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      On September 18, 2019, in the Leninsky District Court of Saratov, the prosecutor requested 7 years of prison term for Konstantin Bazhenov, Feliks Makhammadiyev and Aleksey Budenchuk and 6 years for Aleksey Miretskiy, Roman Gridasov and Gennadiy German. All of them are charged with their religious beliefs.https://jw-russia.org/en/news/19091816-1143.html

    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      On August 15, 2019, in the Zheleznodorozhny District Court of Khabarovsk, the criminal  investigation against local resident Valery Moskalenko, 52, was completed. He faces up to six years in prison because in the spring of 2018 in a hotel conference room he allegedly talked with friends about faith in Jehovah God. The case is being heard by Judge Ivan Belykh. Debate will begin August 28. The prosecution will announce the sentence they are requesting be imposed on the believer. 
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      On May 24, 2019, Markus Grübel, the German Commissioner for Global Freedom of Religion, spoke in connection with the fact that the Russian appellate court upheld the sentence of Dennis Christensen. “I regret the decision of the court that rejected the appeal in the case of Christensen,” said Markus Grübel. “I am concerned about the situation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. Freedom of religion and ideology is an important human right. Every state should respect it. Religious freedom is indivisible and is valid for all religious communities.”

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

    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      The FSB has detained representatives of 15 communities of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Dagestan. They are accused of extremist activity (Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), riadagestan.ru reports.
      A large number of “propaganda items” have been seized from community members, law enforcement officials say. According to the FSB, “for several years, members of the community carried out secret meetings to study extremist literature and coordinate activities to disseminate the ideology of the organization.”
      The exact number of people the special services detained on this case is not reported.
      Jehovah’s Witnesses is an international religious organization with millions of adherents around the world. Jehovah’s Witnesses conduct their activities in most countries of the world. At the same time, in some countries their activity is restricted or banned (among them China, Russia, Vietnam and some Islamic countries).
      Jehovah’s Witnesses organization was recognized as an extremist by the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in 2017. Its activity in Russia is prohibited. Human rights activists believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted solely for their religious beliefs and have repeatedly demanded that political repression against the organization be stopped.
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      The law enforcers, who conducted a search of the apartment of Arsen Abdullaev, a Jehovah's Witness (the organization, recognized as extremist and banned in Russia by the court), who was arrested in Dagestan, used threats and intimidation, Suat, Arsen's wife, has stated.
      The "Caucasian Knot" has reported that on June 1, searches were conducted in Makhachkala, Kaspiysk, Kizlyar and Derbent, after which Jehovah's Witnesses, Arsen Abdullaev, Maria Karpova, Anton Dergalyov and Marat Abdugalimov were detained. On June 3, the court arrestedthem for two months.
      Read more: https://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/47378/
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has categorically condemned the arrests of Jehovah’s Witnesses and demanded that Russia immediately free the worshippers. On May 29, 2019, the opinion of the special UN investigative body was rendered in the case of Dmitriy Mikhaylov v. Russia. The arrest of Dmitriy Mikhaylov, from Shuya (Ivanovo Region), was found to be religious discrimination. The document stresses that the “findings in this opinion apply to all others in the situations similar to that of Mr. Mikhaylov.” We publish the whole document in Russian.

    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Full list of 189 Jehovah's Witnesses (aged between 19 and 84) known to have been charged or named as suspects for "extremism"-related "crimes" as of 31 May 2019. Of these, 29 are in detention, 28 under house arrest and 73 under travel restrictions. Cases against three were handed to court in late May.
      As of today (31 May) at least 189 Jehovah's Witnesses across Russia face criminal prosecution for exercising their freedom of religion or belief on "extremism"-related charges, which they resolutely deny. The majority are in detention, under house arrest, or under travel restrictions. Armed raids continue on Jehovah's Witness homes, and some people have been arrested at their workplaces.
      Protest in support of Jehovah's Witnesses, St Petersburg, 23 March 2019
      Tatyana Voltskaya (RFE/RL)
      The cases against three of these individuals (in Tomsk and Polyarny) have already been completed and in late May were handed to court for trial (see below).

      The number of individuals facing criminal prosecution has been steadily rising. In September 2018 it had reached about 70. In February 2019 126 Jehovah's Witnesses were facing criminal prosecutions, the majority of whom were in detention, under house arrest, or under travel restrictions.
      40 women, 149 men, aged from 19 to 84

      The at least 40 female and 149 male Jehovah's Witnesses all face possible prosecution under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1 ("Organisation of"), or 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"), or Part 1.1 ("Inclination, recruitment or other involvement of a person in an extremist organisation"), as well as Criminal Code Article 282.3, Part 1 ("Financing of extremist activity").

      The oldest and youngest facing criminal charges were born almost exactly 65 years apart. Yelena Zayshchuk, born in August 1934, is 84. Grigory Ozhiganov, born in August 1999, is 19.

      Of the 189 individuals known to be facing criminal prosecution:
      - 29 people (3 women, 26 men) are in pre-trial detention;
      - 2 people (both men) were ordered placed in pre-trial detention and are now wanted;
      - 28 people (4 women, 24 men) are under house arrest;
      - 73 people (26 women, 47 men) are under travel restrictions;
      - 16 people (1 woman, 15 men) are under specific sets of restrictions (such as not being allowed to go out at night or use the telephone or internet);
      - 5 people (1 woman, 4 men) are under an obligation to appear before investigators promptly when summoned;
      - 36 people (5 women, 31 men) appear to be under no restrictions.

      Officials have had 74 of these 189 individuals added to the Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring) "List of Terrorists and Extremists", whose assets banks are obliged to freeze, except for small transactions. (Two already convicted, Dennis Christensen and Sergei Skrynnikov, also appear on the List.) Individuals do not need to have been convicted of any crime to be added to the list.

      Six people are on the Interior Ministry's federal wanted list as their whereabouts are unknown. Two are known to have left Russia.

      The Russian authorities have also opened criminal cases against three Jehovah's Witnesses in Russian-occupied Crimea. Sergei Filatov and Artyom Gerasimov have been charged, while Taras Kuzio is a suspect.
      Investigations follow 2017 Supreme Court ban

      The investigations are a direct result of the Supreme Court's 2017 ban on Jehovah's Witness activity throughout the country, and its decision to declare the Jehovah's Witness Administrative Centre and all 395 local communities "extremist organisations". No cases stemming from the nationwide ban have yet come to trial, although several investigations have recently been completed and two trials appear imminent.
      Dennis Christensen behind windows in court, 28 January 2019
      Human Rights Watch [CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US]
      The registered Jehovah's Witness organisation in Oryol was earlier ruled "extremist" and ordered liquidated in June 2016. Stemming from that ban on 23 May 2019 Danish Citizen Dennis Christensen jailing for six years under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1 was upheld by Oryol Appeal Court. 

      The prosecution stemming from the Oryol ban of Jehovah's Witness Sergei Skrynnikov which on 1 April 2019 led to him being fined fine of about a year and a half's average local wages under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 2. Skrynnikov's appeal is due to be heard on 13 June.

      In a case launched in June 2016 before the nationwide ban, in December 2018 Arkadya Akopyan, was initially found guilty under Criminal Code 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") for allegedly giving "extremist" sermons and giving out banned literature. The prosecution produced apparently false witnesses in the case. But Akopyan was later acquitted in connection with the partial decriminalisation of this offence.
      Trial underway, two more trials imminent

      Yury Zalipayev, remains on trial under Criminal Code Article 280, Part 1 ("Public calls for extremist activity") for allegedly distributing material "inciting hatred and enmity towards a social group, 'Christian clergy'", but Jehovah's Witnesses insist that these materials were planted by FSB security service officers during a search.

      The criminal case against Sergei Klimov in Tomsk was handed to October District Court in late May. The Court told Forum 18 on 31 May that no date has yet been set for his trial to begin.

      The case against two men from Polyarny in Murmansk Region - Roman Markin and Viktor Trofimov – who were interrogated at the Investigative Department of the Russian Navy's Northern Fleet's Polyarny Flotilla was handed to Polyarny District Court in late May. The Court told Forum 18 on 31 May that no date has yet been set for their trial to begin.
      Nationwide raids

      Stemming from the 2017 nationwide ban, the authorities have from January 2018 onwards intensively raided Jehovah's Witness homes across Russia, continuing less frequent raids that took place before Jehovah's Witnesses were banned. 

      Between January 2018 and May 2019, raids have taken place in the following 36 of Russia's 83 federal subjects (not counting Crimea and Sevastopol): Amur, Arkhangelsk, Republic of Bashkortostan, Belgorod, Ivanovo, Jewish Autonomous Region, Kamchatka, Kemerovo, Khabarovsk, Republic of Khakasiya, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region, Kirov, Kostroma, Krasnoyarsk, Magadan, Republic of Mordoviya, Murmansk, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Orenburg, Oryol, Penza, Perm, Primorye, Pskov, Rostov, Republic of Sakha-Yakutiya, Sakhalin, Saratov, Smolensk, Stavropol, Sverdlovsk, Republic of Tatarstan, Tomsk, Ulyanovsk, and Volgograd.

      Despite the Jehovah's Witnesses being doctrinally pacifist, the raids often involve heavily armed riot police or National Guard troops carrying machine guns. The raids are usually led by the Investigative Committee, with the FSB security service and police Centre for Combating Extremism also often participating.

      The usual pattern for a raid is that officials, including armed men in masks and body armour, late at night or early in the morning arrive at Jehovah's Witnesses' homes. The occupants are sometimes made to lie on the floor or face the wall while the officers search their homes.

      "We quickly got dressed, opened the door, and in a second the apartment was filled with men in black. I was just shocked," Svetlana Suvorkova, whose husband Yevgeny was arrested in Kirov in October 2018, told the jw-russia website on 11 January 2019. Suvorkov is now under house arrest.

      Officials then confiscate personal possessions such as electronic devices, bank cards, personal photographs, and books. After this the Jehovah's Witnesses, including children and elderly people, are normally taken to one of the raiding agencies' buildings for questioning lasting several hours.
      Detention, house arrest, travel restrictions

      Most people are then released, some under travel restrictions. Others are kept in temporary detention until investigators decide whether to apply to a court for longer-term restrictive measures – they must do this within 48 hours of the initial detention.

      A judge then decides whether to grant an investigator's request to place an individual in detention, under house arrest, or under travel or other restrictions.

      House arrest means that an individual must remain within their home, possibly with other court-ordered restrictions, unless there is a medical reason to have treatment outside their home.

      An initial period of pre-trial detention or house arrest lasts for two months from the date of arrest. Criminal cases are usually opened on or shortly before the date of the raid. Towards the end of the two months, investigators must apply to a court again if they want an extension. Detainees themselves may appeal to a higher court to have these restrictive measures lifted or reduced. Sometimes such appeals have been successful.

      Detentions can be difficult for relatives to cope with, both practically and emotionally. Maksim Khalturin's father has health problems and relies largely on his support, the jw-russia.org website stated on 11 January 2019. "It is very hard for me without him. After all, I must take care of my husband alone. And I myself am 81 years old," said his mother Galina Khalturina. "For the first week I couldn't sleep at all," said Olga Korobeynikova, whose husband Vladimir is now under house arrest in Kirov. "When I wake up, there's just pain."
      Prosecutions despite Supreme Court claims
      Russia's Supreme Court, Moscow
      Anton Naumliuk (RFE/RL)
      Prosecutions of Jehovah's Witnesses are happening despite the Supreme Court' insistence when they issued the ruling that it "does not amount to prohibition of the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses as such", and despite the fact that the Russian government has twice claimed that the ban "does not contain a restriction or prohibition on individual profession of [Jehovah's Witness] teachings".

      Jehovah's Witnesses point out that the Supreme Court judges' claims are not reflected in reality. "Today it has become clear that the statements of the Russian authorities before international bodies that the liquidation of Jehovah's Witness legal entities 'do not contain any restriction or prohibition on practicing these teachings' is nothing more than slyness," spokesperson Yaroslav Sivulsky commented on 23 May. "In order to convict a person for extremism and an attempt on the constitutional order, and then punish him on a par with thieves and murderers, it is enough for law enforcement authorities to prove that he believes in God in the wrong way and catch him reading the Bible."

      Muslims who study the works of the late Muslim theologian Said Nursi face similar "extremism"-related prosecutions. In what appears to be a first, Yevgeny Kim, arrested in 2015 and convicted in 2017 for meeting with others to study Nursi's books, was deprived of his Russian citizenship, leaving him stateless, and on 10 April 2019 – the day he completed his prison term – was fined and ordered deported to his country of birth Uzbekistan.

      Full list of 189 under criminal investigation, sentenced or on trial

      Name, date of birth – date of initial arrest; date of decision to put in detention/under house arrest/under travel restrictions; charged/suspect under Criminal Code Article; whether or not on Rosfinmonitoring "List of Terrorists and Extremists"

      - Pre-trial Detention

      Ivanovo - Furmanovo

      1) Yevgeny Andreyevich Spirin, born 24 February 1986 – arrested on 27 January 2019; detained on 28 January 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; not on Rosfinmonitoring List


      2) Sergey Alekseyevich Britvin, born 18 August 1965 – arrested on 22 July 2018; detained on 24 July 2018; suspect under Article 282.2, Part 2; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 22 November 2018

      3) Vadim Anatolyevich Levchuk, born 6 February 1972 – arrested on 22 July 2018; detained on 24 July 2018; suspect under Article 282.2, Part 2; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 22 November 2018


      4) Valery Vasilyevich Moskalenko, born 15 April 1967 – arrested on 2 August 2018; detained on 3 August 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Part 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List


      5) Andrzej [Anatolyevich] Oniszczuk, Polish citizen, born 3 October 1968 – arrested on 9 October 2018; detained 12 October 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1, and Article 282.3, Part 1; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 15 November 2018

      Krasnoyarsk – Sharypovo 

      6) Anton Olegovich Ostapenko, born 1991 – arrested on 19 April 2019; detained on 24 April 2019 for two months; Article 282.2, Part 1; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      Mordoviya – Saransk 

      7) Aleksandr Stanislavovich Shevchuk, born 31 August 1989 – arrested on 6 February 2019; detained no later than 8 February 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 11 April 2019


      😎 Yury Prokopyevich Savelyov, born 1 January 1954 – arrested on 8 November 2018; detained on 8 November 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 18 December 2018

      Primorye – Spassk-Dalny

      9) Yury Nikolayevich Belosludtsev, born 1 May 1964 – arrested on 17 March 2019 in Luchegorsk; detained on 19 March 2019 for two months; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1 or 2; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 30 May 2019

      10) Sergei Aleksandrovich Sergeyev, born 1955 – arrested on 17 March 2019 in Luchegorsk; detained on 19 March 2019 for two months; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1 or 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      Primorye – Vladivostok

      11) Dmitry Viktorovich Barmakin, born 30 May 1974 – arrested in Nakhodka on 28 July 2018; detained on 30 July 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 14 February 2019

      12) Irina Gennadyevna Buglak, born 25 January 1975 – arrested in Partizansk on 19 April 2019; detained on 20 April 2019 for two months; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; not on Rosfinmonitoring List


      13) Arsen Vilenovich Avanesov, born 1983 – arrested on 22 May 2019; detained on 26 May 2019 for two months; suspect under Article 282.2, Part 1; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      14) Vilen Shagenovich Avanesov, born 1952 – arrested on 22 May 2019; detained on 26 May 2019 for two months; suspect under Article 282.2, Part 1; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      15) Aleksandr Mikhailovich Parkov, born 1967 – arrested on 22 May 2019; detained on 26 May 2019 for two months; suspect under Article 282.2, Part 1; not on Rosfinmonitoring List


      16) Yevgeny Vladimirovich Deshko, born 1989 – arrested on 29 April 2019; detained on 1 May 2019 for two months; suspect under Article 282.2, Part 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      17) Ruslan Nikolayevich Korolyov, born 1982 – arrested on 25 April 2019; detained on 26 April 2019 for two months; suspect under Article 282.2, Part 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      18) Valery Anatolyevich Shalyev, born 1977 – arrested on 25 April 2019; detained on 26 April 2019 for two months; suspect under Article 282.2, Part 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      19) Viktor Ivanovich Malkov, born 1959 – arrested on 25 April 2019; detained on 26 April 2019 for two months; suspect under Article 282.2, Part 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      20) Tatyana Stepanovna Galkevich, born 1959 – arrested on 16 May 2019; detained on 18 May 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      21) Valentina Ivanovna Vladimirova, born 1956 – arrested on 16 May 2019; detained on 18 May 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      Stavropol – Neftekumsk 

      22) Aleksandr Andreyevich Akopov, born 4 November 1992 – arrested on 9 December 2018; detained on 12 December 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      23) Konstantin Valeryevich Samsonov, born 8 April 1977 – arrested on 9 December 2018; detained on 12 December 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      24) Shamil Shapiyevich Sultanov, born 16 March 1977 – arrested on 9 December 2018; detained on 12 December 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; not on Rosfinmonitoring List


      25) Sergey Gennadyevich Klimov, born 26 March 1970 – arrested on 3 June 2018; detained on 5 June 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; not on Rosfinmonitoring List


      26) Sergei Nikolayevich Melnik, born 1972 – arrested on 16 May 2019; detained on 18 May 2019; suspect under Article 282.2, Part 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      27) Vyacheslav Ivanovich Osipov, born 1970 – arrested on 16 May 2019; detained on 18 May 2019; suspect under Article 282.2, Part 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      28) Valery Anatolyevich Rogozin, born 1962 – arrested on 16 May 2019; detained on 18 May 2019; suspect under Article 282.2, Part 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      29) Igor Artyomovich Yegozaryan, born 1965 – arrested on 16 May 2019; detained on 18 May 2019; suspect under Article 282.2, Part 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      - Pre-trial Detention ordered in absentia


      1) Vitaly Gennadyevich Maksimov, born 27 December 1980 – detention ordered in absentia (on wanted list); charged under Article 282.2, Part 2; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 20 September 2018

      2) Dmitry Andreyevich Prikhodko, born 17 March 1986 – detention ordered in absentia (on wanted list); charged under Article 282.2, Part 2; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 20 September 2018

      - House Arrest

      Kemerovo – Berezyovsky 

      1) Khasan Abduvaitovich Kogut, born 7 May 1983 – arrested on 6 February 2019 on being summoned to FSB office; detained for 48 hours then put under house arrest on 8 February 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 2; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 28 February 2019


      2) Vladimir Aleksandrovich Korobeynikov, born 14 December 1952 – arrested on 9 October 2018; detained on 12 October 2018; put under house arrest on 1 February 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1, and Article 282.3, Part 1; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 15 November 2018

      3) Maksim Valeryevich Khalturin, born 3 September 1974 – arrested on 9 October 2018; detained on 12 October 2018; put under house arrest on 1 February 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1, and Article 282.3, Part 1; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 15 November 2018

      4) Andrei Sergeyevich Suvorkov, 26 February 1993 – arrested on 9 October 2018; detained on 12 October 2018; put under house arrest on 1 February 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1, and Article 282.3, Part 1; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 15 November 2018

      5) Yevgeny Anatolyevich Suvorkov, born 3 February 1978 – arrested on 9 October 2018; detained 12 October 2018; put under house arrest on 28 March 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1, and Article 282.3, Part 1; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 15 November 2018


      6) Stanislav Viktorovich Kim, born 5 July 1968 – arrested on 10 November 2018; detained on 12 November 2018; placed under house arrest on 30 January 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      7) Vitaly Vyacheslavovich Zhuk, born 8 April 1972 – arrested 10 November 2018; detained 12 November 2018; placed under house arrest on 14 January 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      😎 Nikolai Yuryevich Polevodov, born 10 February 1970 – arrested on 10 November 2018; detained on 12 November 2018; placed under house arrest on 14 January 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region – Uray 

      9) Andrey Vladimirovich Sazonov, born 1980 – arrested on 6 February 2019; detained on 8 February 2019; put under house arrest on 26 February 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; not on Rosfinmonitoring List 

      10) Yevgeny Nikolayevich Kayrak, born 1986 – arrested on 15 February 2019 and detained for 48 hours; put under house arrest on 24 March 2019; suspect under Article 282.2, Part 1 or 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List


      11) Andrei Garafetanovich Stupnikov, born 17 September 1973 – arrested on 3 July 2018; detained on 4 July 2018; put under house arrest on 1 March 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; not on Rosfinmonitoring List


      12) Aleksandr Ivanovich Seryodkin, born 1 December 1954 – arrested on 19 April 2019; put under house arrest on 21 April 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 8 May 2019

      13) Valery Vladimirovich Maletskov, born 13 September 1974 – arrested on 19 April 2019 and detained for 1 day; put under house arrest on 21 April 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 2; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 8 May 2019


      14) Vladimir Aleksandrovich Kulyasov, born 17 April 1974 – arrested on 15 July 2018 and detained for 48 hours; put under house arrest on 17 July 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Part 2; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 6 September 2018

      15) Andrei Aleksandrovich Magliv, born 20 June 1984 – arrested on 15 July 2018 and detained for 48 hours; put under house arrest on 17 July 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Part 2; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 6 September 2018

      16) Denis Vladimirovich Timoshin, born 23 March 1980 – arrested on 15 July 2018 and detained for 48 hours; put under house arrest on 17 July 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Part 2; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 6 September 2018

      17) Vladimir Aleksandrovich Alushkin, born 30 June 1964 – arrested on 15 July 2018; detained on 17 July 2018; put under house arrest on 14 January 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 6 September 2018

      Primorye – Spassk-Dalny

      18) Dmitry Yuryevich Malyovany, born 24 April 1990 – arrested 25 November 2018 and detained for 48 hours; put under house arrest on 27 November 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 14 February 2019

      19) Olga Alekseyevna Opaleva, born 22 April 1952 – arrested 25 November 2018 and detained for 48 hours; put under house arrest on 27 November 2018; suspect under Article 282.2, Part 1; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 14 February 2019

      20) Olga Aleksandrovna Panyuta, born 11 June 1959 – arrested 25 November 2018 and detained for 48 hours; put under house arrest on 27 November 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1.1; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 14 February 2019

      21) Aleksei Borisovich Trofimov, born 23 April 1959 – arrested 25 November 2018 and detained for 48 hours; put under house arrest on 27 November 2018; suspect under Article 282.2, Part 1; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 14 February 2019


      22) Natalya Igoryevna Sorokina, born 12 March 1975 – arrested in Sychyovka on 7 October 2018; detained on 9 October 2018; put under house arrest on 15 April 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      23) Mariya Vladimirovna Troshina, born 13 February 1977 – arrested in Sychyovka on 7 October 2018; detained on 9 October 2018; put under house arrest on 15 April 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      Tatarstan – Naberezhniye Chelny

      24) Ilkham Shamilyevich Karimov, born 9 February 1981 – arrested on 27 May 2018; detained on 29 May 2018; put under house arrest on 2? November 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      25) Konstantin Viktorovich Matrashov, born 22 August 1988 arrested on 27 May 2018; detained on 29 May 2018; put under house arrest on 14 November 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Parts 1, 1.1, and 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      26) Vladimir Nikolayevich Myakushin, born 6 November 1987 – arrested on 27 May 2018; detained on 29 May 2018; put under house arrest on 13 November 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Parts 1, 1.1, and 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List

      27) Aydar Maratovich Yulmetyev, born August 1993 – arrested on 29 May 2018; detained on 31 May 2018; put under house arrest on 13 November 2018; charged under Article 282.2, Parts 1, 1.1, and 2; not on Rosfinmonitoring List


      28) Sergei Aleksandrovich Mysin, born 21 June 1965 – arrested on 27 February 2019; detained on 28 February 2019; put under house arrest on 23 April 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 6 May 2019
      Read more: http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2482
    • By Kurt
      Lenizdat.ru, 31 January 2016

      A decision about ruling a website to be extremist on the basis of materials that are contained on only one of its pages does not violate the constitution. The Constitutional Court of the RF came to this conclusion. A similar conclusion had already been made previously by the Supreme Court.
      The decision was made in response to an appeal by the company Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York (it conducts economic affairs of the Jehovah's Witnesses). The organization is also known as the Watchtower Society.
      In December 2014 a number of Jehovah's Witnesses' materials were ruled by the Supreme Court to be extremist. The topic involved three books: "What does the Bible really teach?" "Draw near to Jehovah," and "Come, follow me." In addition, the decision applied to the entire website of the organization, jw.org, as a whole.
      "Recognizing as extremist only a portion of informational materials of an Internet site does not eliminate the threat of subsequent posting on it of similar materials," the court's decision says.
      Representatives of the Watchtower Society tried to challenge this position in the Constitutional Court, but, according to a report from Fontanka.ru, it was unsuccessful.
      "Not only individual informational materials posted on the Internet network and pages of the site on the Internet network may be ruled extremist, but also the entire website as a whole. The disputed legal regulation, conditioned on the necessity of guaranteeing the security of the state and the protection of the rights and liberties of an unrestricted circle of persons, may not be viewed as violating the constitutional rights of the plaintiff," the Constitutional Court's decision says.
      We recall that this is not the first instance when Jehovah's Witnesses have challenged the decisions of Russian courts. In 2004, a court in Moscow disbanded their congregation and forbade its activity. The congregation was found guilty specifically of recruitment of children, encouraging believers to break with their families, and encouraging suicide and rejection of medical care.
      In 2010 the European Court for Human Rights found this decision of the court illegal and required Russia to pay the victims 70 thousand Euros. 
      SOVA Center for News and Analysis, 1 February 2016
      The Constitutional Court denied the Jehovah's Witnesses who were challenging several provisions of Russian laws on combating extremist activity and on information.
      On 13 November 2015 the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York (the parent structure of Jehovah's Witnesses, registered in the USA) filed an appeal in the Russian Constitutional Court against provisions of federal laws "On combating extremist activity" and "On information, information technology and on protection of information." The reason for this was the confirmation by the Supreme Court of the prohibition of the official website of Jehovah's Witnesses, which was imposed by the Central district court of Tver in September 2013.
      In the appeal Jehovah's Witnesses asked the court to examine the constitutionality of a number of provisions of laws which were the bases of the decision of the Tver court and the Supreme Court. First, the decision, referring to part 3 of article 1 and article 13 of the law "On combating extremist actions" pointed out that the law does not apply to foreign organizations and ruling a website as extremist does not affect the rights and legal interests of the foreign Watchtower Society, and thus its involvement in the trial is not required. In the opinion of the plaintiff such a procedure violates the principle of equality of all before the law and the court and it violates the constitutional rights of foreign organizations to protection of intellectual property and to judicial defense.
      This position is supported by the conclusions of an expert analysis that was conducted by the senior scientific associate of the Institute of State and Law of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Irina Lukianova. Non-involvement in the trial of the Watchtower Society is, in the final analysis, a violation of the right to fair trial (article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and the reversal by the Supreme Court of the decision made on the results of an investigation with the participation of the owner of the website is evidence of the violation of the right to effective restoration of rights (article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), the expert indicated.
      Second, according to the provisions of the same articles, it is permitted to consider a whole website to be extremist, even if only a few materials considered to be extremist are posted on it. In reviewing the case of the Jehovah's Witnesses' website, the Supreme Court pointed out that its "partial" recognition as extremist "implies a threat of further distribution" of extremist information on it, although the prohibited materials at that moment had been removed from the website. At the same time, a ban on a variety of materials on the largest social networks, which are much more popular than the Jehovah's Witnesses' site, does not lead to the blocking of social networks as a whole. Finally, the law does not at all define in which cases it is necessary to prohibit whole websites by court order and in which cases it is necessary to prohibit individual pages and in which cases blocking is done out-of-court. The Jehovah's Witnesses indicate that such legal indefiniteness entails a threat of a discriminatory approach, which violates the rights and liberties of citizens guaranteed by the constitution.
      Third, the appeal points out that the laws do not contain procedures for removal of a website from the register of prohibited websites and the federal list of extremist materials, which leads to the restriction of freedom of speech.
      On 22 December 2015, the Constitutional Court issued a decision on the Jehovah's Witnesses' appeal. It says, specifically, that "recognition of a website on the Internet to be extremist on the whole is possible both in the case of systematic posting on it of extremist materials and in the case where such a site was specifically created by a public or religious association or another organization which are considered to be extremist and whose activity is prohibited on the territory of the Russian federation for the purpose of disseminating information of an extremist nature." At the same time the Constitutional Court clarified that "in resolving the issues of recognizing material on an Internet site or a part of it to be extremist, the court should take into account the basic principles established by the federal legislature for combating extremist activity and proceed from the necessity of using the most effective way of combating extremism in the actual circumstances established by it, including removal of the causes and conditions facilitating the mass distribution of information that has previously been ruled to be extremist."  As regards the removal of websites considered extremist from the federal list of extremist materials and from the integrated automated information system, as connected with overcoming the finality of judicial actions that have taken legal effect, the Constitutional Court limited itself to the consideration that it "is possible within the procedure provided by procedural legislation, . . . while the contested legal provisions, just like other norms of the said federal laws, do not establish the procedure of judicial investigation, including determining the participants of such an investigation and their procedural status." Thus the appeal was denied and important questions of the implementation of the law raised in it were left without an answer.
      Prosecutor's lawsuit to declare Jehovah's Witnesses extremist
      by Evgeny Filippov

      BelPressa [Belgorod], 2 February 2016
      The prosecutor of Belgorod province filed in court a lawsuit for ruling the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses of Belgorod extremist and for its liquidation and removal from the register of the Ministry of Justice.
      Representatives of the prosecutor's office consider that it is necessary to liquidate the religious organization in accordance with article 9 of the federal law "On combating extremist activity."
      During the session on 2 February, Judge Irina Naumova of the Belgorod provincial court received a number of petitions from participants in the trial.
      "I ask the court to attach to the case religious brochures 'Sacred Scripture—New World Translation' on the last page of which there is a reference to an Internet resource that is prohibited in our country," the deputy chief of the department of the prosecutor's office of the province, Valentina Brigadina, petitioned. "In addition, it is necessary to attach the brochure 'How to recognize true Christians' as extremist material that is contained in the federal list of the Ministry of Justice. And also 'Armageddon. What is it? When will it come?' ,'Is Satan real?', and 'Music. How does it affect you?', as publications referring readers to an Internet link that is included in the list of extremist materials."
      Representatives of the regional prosecutor's office also petitioned for summoning and questioning seven witnesses who, in their opinion, have suffered from the activity of Jehovah's Witnesses.
      Lawyers for the defendant—the leader of the Belgorod religious organization, Alexander Shchendrygin—did not agree with the representatives of the plaintiff and asked the court not to attach to the case the religious brochures cited above, as they have nothing to do with the substance of the lawsuit.
      "Several editions of the book 'Sacred Scripture—New World Translation' exist and I do not know just which the side of representatives of the provincial prosecutor's office is talking about," the attorney of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, Anton Omelchenko, noted. "So far as I know, there is no reference in the brochure to websites that are banned in Russia."
      In addition the side of the defense filed more than ten petitions: from attachment of documents confirming the harmlessness for society of the religious teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses to summons to court of activists of the local religious congregation. Most of the petitions of the defendant were rejected by the court. The trial will continue on 3 February.
      This is not the first instance when Belgorod Jehovists faced such accusations. In March 2015, by decision of the October district court of Belgorod, religious brochures "The Son wants to reveal the Father" and "Was life created?" were ruled to be extremist literature.
      On 5 February, the Belgorod provincial court will begin consideration of a similar lawsuit, but against the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses of Stary Oskol.
    • By The Librarian
      The appeal date is June 13, 2017. 11:40 am

    • By bruceq
      Translated from Russian so please excuse any inaccuracies 
      Representatives of the Guinness Book of Records is ready to commit a new world record for the number of letters written ?! What is this marvelous news, which is almost entirely ignored by the media, especially in Russia, but considered representatives of the Guinness Book of Records? Most recently, the post offices in many countries ended international brands. In Facebook, Instagram and other social networks continues to grow the number of photos with people, writing letters to Russia.  Guinness workers watch to see letter-writing campaign can this be included in the Book of Records.  The current record holder for writing letters  The current record for a letter-writing marathon organization "Amnesty International": write letters in defense of human rights. The campaign has been written in general, more than one million letters, through which dozens of people were released.  What is this new story - by writing letters in Russian ? At a time when everyone is busy controversy about the extent to which Russia could intervene in the recent US elections, Russia quietly, significantly limited and restricts the freedom of one particular group of its citizens.  Perhaps you read and say, "Well, it - Russia, in the end; Is not she always restricts the rights of its citizens? ". Not really.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia became a democratic society with the Constitution, described  even more clearly and specifically than freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.  Despite this assurance, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation petitioned the Supreme Court to recognize Jehovah's Witnesses (Jehovah's Witnesses) extremists on a par with an organization such as LIH. If the claim is satisfied, then for more than 175,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in the country illegally will meet to worship, to discuss the Bible with others or even just to read the Bible in their own homes. Hearing on the case was scheduled for April 5, 2017, hearings were held and now the court will continue April 12, 2017. Interesting statistics © Google Trends All these actions of the Russian authorities have led to the fact that the dynamics of the popularity of Jehovah's Witnesses on the Internet has increased a record compared to other religious denominations.  As they say, are now Jehovah's Witnesses on the Internet in the trend, as ever! :-) Top of the Pops in the Google Trends has received their official website, which is locked in a single country in the world - Russia. Witnesses decided to take the pens and pencils In response to the injustice all 8,000,000 of Jehovah's Witnesses from all over the world have decided to write a letter in defense of their Russian fellow six key officials in Moscow, including the president - Vladimir Putin.  Sending six letters by mail to Moscow from the United States costs about $ 8. The total cost of postage, according to one researcher, based only on the US level, amounted to more than $ 55 million. In some other countries it cost the family a large part of their monthly income. But these costs do not stop Jehovah's Witnesses to write so many letters in support of their co-religionists.  H as the basis of reports from sots.setey, "Jehovah's Witnesses",  their children , friends and business partners took up this matter with great desire.  Surprisingly, if each of the 8,000,000 people to send six letters, Facebook mathematician calculated that Moscow post office can get a stack of mail in height or length of over 30 kilometers!  And Russian Post has celebrated the new record of international mail. This campaign of letter-writing, which was organized by Jehovah's Witnesses, in some countries went so quickly and orderly, that simply amazed. Here is one example: Foreign media about the trial witnesses and letter-writing campaign In addition, many foreign media spread the news about the forthcoming decision of the court, and the campaign of writing letters against the RF Ministry of Justice action against Jehovah's Witnesses  (in English / in English) : The article on the Australian site   the R ealnewsone  begins with the incredible, but absolutely accurate entry : "The Russian government has decided to defy Jehovah God." Rochester, NY (Rochester, NY): Jehovah's Witnesses in favor of freedom in Russia. Of Missouri You will's University then Religion News the Service (University of Missouri, news service): Jehovah's Witnesses are afraid that the Russian authorities may prohibit them Philippines of The (Philippines): Witnesses problem - we join in the appeal against the Russian threat to ban them Leone sierra ( Sierra Leone): "Jehovah's Witnesses" - Mobilizing the global response to the threat of a ban in Russia. The Network's Mission Michigan You will News : Religious freedom and the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia Spokane, Washington You : Jehovah's Witnesses protest against the label And Tobago trinidad : Russia: Witnesses terrorist group World television channel the BBC , on its front page, post articles and videos , as law enforcement throw Witnesses prohibited materials with explanatory interview with a representative of Jehovah's Witnesses, Jaroslav Sivulskii (in English / in English). Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia and the websites of other countries  also reprinted a press release on the official website of Jehovah's Witnesses.  Although the titles of the pro-Russian news sources, you can see several different outlook. But, in fact, the English-language news read as Russian: Had enough, enough, unjustly, that Jehovah's Witnesses are facing a ban! The Helsinki Commission , which consists of US senators and congressmen condemned the Russian lawyers filed a lawsuit. The UN also called on Russia to stop the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses. While a sense of world politicians are not appreciated, millions of Jehovah's Witnesses letters - peaceful, law-abiding citizens who  just  want  that  all  people  have  the freedom  of religion -  strewed all over the world and are perhaps even more chances to persuade the Russian government to stop the persecution than a few American politicians.  If your local news outlet covered this story, please feel free to send them the link to this article.  Jehovah's Witnesses in the Book of Records  Guinness The future will show whether the representatives of the Guinness Book record a new world record for the number of letters written. Jehovah's Witnesses have at times fall into the Guinness World Records  - the number of languages into which translations of their literature magazine  The Watchtower,  which was there , even witnesses were in this book because of the refusal of transfusion of foreign blood .  Although Jehovah's Witnesses are not fundamentally, will they in the  Guinness Book of Records for the number of written messages or not, because their main task is quite different - the commandment that instructed them to their Lord Christ, in particular, in Matthew 7: 12; Matthew 22: 35-40; 28: 18-20; John 13: 34-35 ...
      Подробнее тут: http://www.fakt777.ru/
    • By ARchiv@L
      Many NGOs have denounced worldwide the severe persecution of the Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses that is taking place in Russia.
      This issue was also discussed in Italy in two important conferences held in the Chamber of Deputies, respectively organized by AIDLR (International Association for the Defence of Religious Liberty) on October 26, 2016, and by CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions) on March 22, 2017.
      The current situation of this religious organization in Russia is heavily effected by the approval and entry into force of the controversial “Yarovaya law” that struck indiscriminately all churches other than the Russian Orthodox Church. An international chorus of voices was raised in recent months in defence of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.
      Five Members of the Italian Parliament decided to add their voices to this chorus denouncing the serious violations of religious freedom of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, asking questions to the Italian Parliament (Legislature 17, Question n. 2/01744 - Published on April 3, 2017, at session n. 772).
      On. Rostellato, Lacquaniti, Paola Boldrini, Oliviero and Tieri reminded that
      "The Constitution of the Russian Federation -Art. 28- guarantees freedom of religion, including the right to profess a faith individually, collectively or to not profess any, to freely choose, have and to disseminate religious beliefs. The Constitution - Art. 30 - provides that everyone has the right to freely associate".
      Moreover, Jehovah's Witnesses are legally recognized in over 220 countries of the world, their religious activities are peaceful and respectful of other people's freedom and of the law, according to the European Court of Human Rights, in more than 47 judgments.
      Therefore, in light of the above, Deputies ask
      "Whether the Italian Government is aware of the facts outlined in the introduction and if it intends to take diplomatic initiatives to raise awareness in the Russian Government to respect the professions of faith in the Russian territory".
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      On March 26, 2019, FSB investigator Sergey Bosiev charged Artem Gerasimov, who had been previously detained for interrogation during a search of eight houses in Alupka, Gurzuf and Yalta (Crimea), with organizing extremist activities (Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code). Another one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Taras Kuzyo, is also a suspect in this case. Both men were released after being interrogated.
      Read full text in Russian
      Case of Gerasimov and Others in Yalta
      Locality: Yalta
      Case number: 11907350001000041
      Current stage: preliminary investigation (pre-trial proceedings)
      Suspected of: according to the investigation, together with others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as organising the activity of an extremist organisation (with reference to the decision of the Russian Supreme Court on the liquidation of all 396 registered organisations of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
      Article of the Russian Criminal Code: 282.2(1)
      Case initiated: 23 May 2017
      Investigating: Investigative Department of the Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia for the Republic of Crimea
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Armed Russian FSB security service officers raided six Jehovah's Witness homes around Yalta, seizing religious literature. Artem Gerasimov faces "extremism"-related criminal charges with a maximum ten year jail term, the second Crimean Jehovah's Witness to face such charges. On 16 April, Russia's Supreme Court is due to hear appeals by four Muslims convicted in January of membership of the Muslim group Tabligh Jamaat.
      On 20 March, armed Russian FSB security service officers raided at least six Jehovah's Witness homes in the southern Crimean city of Yalta and the nearby suburb of Alupka. At least one of the FSB officers was carrying what appeared to be an assault rifle over his shoulder, despite Jehovah's Witnesses known for being pacifist. Officers seized religious literature, money and other documents, and took several people for interrogation.

      FSB officers seized Jehovah's Witness literature, much of which has been banned as "extremist" in Russia. However, they also seized Bible translations and a Bible concordance used by Russian Orthodox, Protestants and others and which the Russian authorities have not banned (see below).
        Crimean FSB headquarters, Simferopol Kosun/Wikimapia [CC BY-SA 3.0] The Crimean branch of the Russian FSB launched a criminal case against 34-year-old Yalta resident Artem Gerasimov. If eventually tried and convicted, he faces up to ten years' imprisonment. He has had to sign a pledge not to leave his home town as the FSB investigates the case against him (see below).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Ukraine and the international community do not recognise Russia's March 2014 annexation of Crimea. After the annexation, Russia imposed its restrictions on freedom of religion and belief. Many religious communities have been raided, and many individuals have been fined for possessing books – such as the Muslim prayer collection "Fortress of a Muslim" - which have been banned as "extremist" in Russia.

      Russia's Supreme Court banned the Tabligh Jamaat missionary movement as "extremist" in 2009.

      Russia's Supreme Court banned Jehovah's Witnesses as "extremist" in 2017. Prosecutors in Russia are investigating nearly 150 individuals on "extremism"-related criminal charges. Of these, at least 25 are in pre-trial detention and 26 under house arrest as of 2 April 2019. Others have had to sign pledges not to leave their home town without permission.

      Following Russia's occupation of Crimea, the Russian authorities granted re-registration to Jehovah's Witness communities in Crimea, only to ban them following the Russian Supreme Court ban.
        Raid, interrogations, confiscations

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

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

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

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

      Officers place religious literature on a bed. Some of the titles are Jehovah's Witness publications, such as their "New World" version of the Bible, which Russia banned as "extremist" in 2017. Others however are Bible translations and a Bible concordance used by Russian Orthodox, Protestants and others and which have not been banned.
        Criminal case

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

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

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

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

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

      The criminal case – which the FSB launched on 10 November 2018 – was the first against Jehovah's Witnesses in occupied Crimea. Like Gerasimov, Filatov had to sign a pledge not to leave his home town.

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

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

      Five days after the criminal case was opened, about 10 groups of FSB security service and OMON riot police officers from Simferopol raided Filatov's and seven other homes in Dzhankoi. During the raid on one home, officers beat the 78-year-old Viktor Ursu – deported to Siberia by the Soviet Union for his faith when he was 9 – put him up against a wall and handcuffed him. Soon after a raid on another home, a young woman suffered a miscarriage which Jehovah's Witnesses say was caused by stress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      The four men met openly in mosques to discuss their faith. "At lessons we studied ayats [verses] from the Koran, the value of praying the namaz, and the zikr [reciting devotional phrases as a reminder of Allah]," one of the men Talyat Abdurakhmanov told the court at their trial. "These lessons were not conspiratorial and took place in mosques."

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

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

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

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

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

      Suleimanov's address in Investigation Prison:

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

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

    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      After the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses* was considered to be an extremist one, and its activities were banned in Russia by the court, it became more difficult to defend them, rights defenders have stated. According to their version, the residents of Northern Caucasus, who have left the Islam, were especially suffering.
      The "Caucasian Knot" has reported that on April 20, 2017, the SC of Russia satisfied the demand of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to liquidate all the 396 religious organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses* in Russia as extremist.
      Rights defenders have faced the problem of protecting Jehovah's Witnesses* in various fields, including from domestic violence, Svetlana Gannushkina, the chair of the "Civil Assistance" Committee, told at a press conference in Moscow on March 28.
      In the course of the event, Ms Gannushkina told the story of a family living in the Caucasus, in which mother and daughter who had converted from Islam to Jehovah's Witnesses* were persecuted by the Muslim husband and father.
      An application from the mother of the minor daughter arrived in the "Civil Assistance" Committee about three years ago, when Jehovah's Witnesses* had not been labelled as an extremist organization. Then, the situation has worsened after Jehovah's Witnesses* became outlawed – now, rights defenders could not help the family, Ms Gannushkina has explained.
      "If they had converted, say, into Christian Orthodoxy, then, they could well turn to the police. But now they are believers of a banned organization; and we cannot protect them, because they can be accused of meeting their fellow believers, which is fraught with prison," Svetlana Gannushkina has concluded.
      With the help of the "Civil Assistance" Committee, the family managed to leave the Caucasus; now, the mother and daughter live in a shelter – a specialized camp for people who have no place to live, Ms Gannushkina has added.
      * The organization has been recognized as extremist in Russia, its activities are banned by the court
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      In February, a Russian court sentenced a Danish citizen who was a legal resident of Russia to six years in prison for such an extremist offence as organizing other Witnesses to shovel snow from their church’s property.
      A month later, Sergei Skrynnikov, a Russian and allegedly a Jehovah’s Witness, was charged with “participating in an extremist organization,” an offence under Russian law that could earn him up to six years in prison. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been fleeing Russia and seeking asylum in Germany and Finland to escape such harsh sentences.
      In China, state authorities harass Jehovah’s Witnesses and raid their meetings. Authorities also deport foreign Witness missionaries from countries such as South Korea.
      South Korea has only recently dropped a 2003 law prohibiting conscientious objection to fighting in its armed forces, a law that confined young Witness men — as well as other men — to jail.
      All these states violate international laws that protect religious freedom, including the freedoms of unpopular minorities. Article 18, 1 of the 1976 United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protects everyone’s freedom to “have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice” and “to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”
      A long history of persecution
      Jehovah’s Witnesses were among the first groups the Nazis persecuted. There were about 25,000 to 30,000 Witnesses in Germany in 1933. About half of those who did not flee were convicted of various crimes and between 2,000 and 2,500 were sent to concentration camps, where about 1,000 died. About 250 were also executed.
      Some years ago I met a Jehovah’s Witness in the city where I live who told me the Nazis had beheaded his grandfather. Germany’s Jehovah’s Witnesses were not merely passive religious group that refused to adopt the Nazi ideology: they also actively tried to expose Nazi atrocities.
      In the 1960s and ‘70s in Malawi, entire villages of Jehovah’s Witnesses were burned, and many villagers were raped, tortured or murdered as they tried to flee. Their crime was refusal to participate in rituals of loyalty to the newly independent Malawian state and its president, Hastings Banda.
      The Malawi government denied me a visa in the early 1980s when I told its High Commission in Ottawa that I wanted to know what had happened to these Witnesses for research for my book, Human Rights in Commonwealth Africa.
      Many Witnesses in Rwanda, both Tutsi and Hutu, lost their lives during the 1994 genocide, many trying to hide people at risk of being murdered.Even now, Rwandan authorities expel some Witness children from school and have fired some Witness teachers because they refuse to sing the national anthem or participate in religious training.
      Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Canada
      Here in Canada, Jehovah’s Witnesses have not always enjoyed their rights to freedom of religion and expression.
      During the Second World War, Witness children were banned from schools in several locations because they would not salute the flag, sing the national anthem or repeat the pledge of allegiance. A Witness father sued the Hamilton Board of Education on behalf of his two sons, who had been expelled from school in 1940. In 1945, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, saying the Board was required to excuse students from participating in religious exercises to which their parents objected
      Read more: https://theconversation.com/jehovahs-witnesses-neglected-victims-of-persecution-114141
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      At least six homes of local Jehovah's Witnesses were searched by officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) on March 20, 2019, in the Crimean towns of Yalta and Alupka. A criminal case has been initiated against believers, citing the article 282.2(1), “Organization of the activities of an extremist organization.” Several persons were detained for interrogation. 34-year-old Artyom Gerasimov was taken to the republican center city of Simferopol.
      During the searches, computers and other electronic devices belonging to believers were seized, along with their Bibles. The case is led by FSB investigators A. Lavrov and S. Bosiyev.
      Earlier, on November 15, 2018, a major operation against the Witnesses took place in Dzhankoy (Crimea).
    • By TrueTomHarley
      I will add the following soon to Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah's Witnesses Write Russia. If anyone wants to comment, I will be grateful. This will include (and welcome) corrections in spelling/grammar. Not that it will not be proofread first, but there is still a lot that can get though.
      At 6:15 AM on February 15, 2019, Timofei Zhukov and his wife were awakened by furious pounding on the door, as though someone would break it down. They didn’t answer and the pounding ceased. Half an hour later their balcony door was broken down. Several riot police stormed into the room. Zhukov was kicked, cuffed, and his head slammed against the wall—'the blood is still on the wallpaper,’ he later told Kommersant, the business magazine. His wife cried in alarm and was cursed for her trouble.1

      It was part of a sting operation that netted 40 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Surgut, Siberia—a major dark turn of events that nobody had anticipated. Twelve officers jumped from three vehicles pulled over to detain 2 Witnesses who were walking alongside the street.2

      Mr. Zhukov was not tortured at the police station, but he did not escape hearing the screams of those seven Witnesses who were—music turned up loud to mask the sounds, but there was no masking them. He is a lawyer, as it turns out, who once served as assistant prosecutor in the city, and now is legal advisor to a construction firm. “Please register the exact time. Somebody is being beaten here,” he shouted. An FSB agent entered the room and said, “Don’t worry, they do not beat anyone here”—there was a drug addict within who was screaming his head off, he was told. And the former prosecutor believed it, only discovering the truth later from his brothers who had been on the other side of the door. He told the magazine that “until recently, he could not believe that law enforcement officers could torture believers.”

      Though cuffed for three hours while his home was searched and beaten on his legs whenever they were judged to be insufficiently far apart, the handcuffs were removed for his escort to the waiting vehicle. “We won’t scare people,” he was told. He answered back that he preferred to wear them, for the neighbors had known him his entire life and were in good position to know whether he was a criminal or not. But off they came, and he was placed into the van—not one that said Police but one that bore the markings ‘Northern Roadway,’ as though off for a friendly commiseration with his former colleagues in law, though his smashed-in apartment balcony must have suggested otherwise.

      They must have hoped to have kept it under wraps. They must have hoped to cast a pall upon the Witness community, but otherwise not suffer their deeds to see the light of day. How else can one account for such a hurried and stupid explanation, shortly thereafter, that the Witnesses had beaten themselves up (as only a sect member could do) to thwart the police investigation? “After the arrest and searches, they, under the direction of the lawyers who arrived in Surgut, got together and during the meeting struck each other, which could then be presented as evidence of torture,” one “insider” said, for ura.ru. “Well-known lawyers who specialize in representing the interests of the Jehovists throughout the country are involved in the case. Services each cost 5 million rubles. The main task is to ruin the criminal case, to attract public attention.”3 Of course! They must have figured that they had to say something, and quickly, for the accounts of the victims along with undeniable photo evidence4 were promptly showcased throughout the world, and the European Court of Human Rights demanded independent investigation.5

      Local hospitals told the released victims that would be treated for their injuries, but that those injuries would not be documented.6 Plainly, they had been leaned upon by someone. Surgut, as determined by a rough atlas survey, is the 67th most populous city in Russia. Perhaps authorities hoped there wouldn’t be much of any support, legal or otherwise, for Witnesses way out there, instead of one of the victims actually being a lawyer. Another victim said one agent had told him: “We had to specifically come from Moscow for this.”7 Why couldn’t he have just stayed in Moscow, where Jehovah’s Witnesses surely are more numerous and are having just as great a challenge coping with the Orwellian law that says you can be a Jehovah’s Witness just so long as you do not do any of the things Jehovah’s Witnesses do, which apparently includes existing? No, to this writer, this episode has the earmarks of a deed meant to be done in a remote corner that unexpectedly turned out to be a world stage, necessitating a hasty (and clumsy) response.

      Reported Znak.com: “The believers think that all of this was done with just one goal—to beat out "evidence necessary to the investigation" from those who had decided to exercise their right granted by the Russian constitution not to provide evidence against themselves and their associates.” A committee spokesman in the Khanty-Mansi region, Oleg Menshikh, told TASS news agency on February 20 that no law had been violated during the interrogations. “Nobody tortured them,” he said. “There was no physical or psychological pressure on them.”5 But two days later there was an about face, with the same official declaring that the government had decided to probe the claim “given the agitation that has arisen after publication of this information in the media.”8

      That’s not entirely promising, a cynic might reply, and many did, was it not like saying: “Look, if they want an official document saying that we didn’t do it, we can comply with that”? So be it. Whose version of truth will prevail? From within the Nazi death camps, Jehovah’s Witnesses smuggled out detailed diagrams of their layout, and those were published in Watchtower magazines.9 They were disbelieved by other media outlets until post-liberation proved them all true. The Witnesses’ veracity is well established, even by those who don’t like them. On the other hand, stories of abuse, even torture, by Russian police are legion by groups of many different stripes.

      Not everything pointed to a quick whitewash. Following an early meeting of the Investigative Committee, Vladimir Ermolaev, a department chief, told Znak.com: "I admit to you that what these people described at the meeting, with these horrible details, all of this shocked me….I cannot describe for you in detail, since nobody has authorized me to do so. But what they said, I registered it all, documented it. I will send all of these materials to the Investigation Department of the S.K.R. for Yugra and to the prosecutor's office of the region.”10So time will tell.*

      When the young boy cries “The emperor has no clothes!” and the latter in response just keeps on strutting his stuff, there’s not much one can do about it other than thoroughly documenting his nakedness and broadcasting it far and wide. This, the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses have done, most notably through their website. No wonder the urgent need of those who oppose to deprive them of organization.

      Jehovah’s Witnesses are regarded by many as the canary in the coal mine. What happens to them may soon happen to others. Two American Mormon missionaries were deported in early March and there were reports that they might be next in line for wider persecution. However, Alexander Verkhovsky, one of the top Russian experts on extremism, xenophobia, nationalism, and human rights, wrote in March 2019, that Witnesses just might become a canary pointing in the other direction. “The growing campaign against Jehovah's Witnesses inspires horror, but it also gives a chance that this time someone will finally catch on and think. [The Witnesses] are too obviously not a threat to security and at the same time they are just as clearly impossible to “eradicate”, since more than 100,000 people cannot be imprisoned or forced out of the country, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have not given up on their faith during difficult times.”11 The situation is too ludicrous, and too unambiguous. The popular mind confuses Muslim groups in a non-Muslim country, so that peaceful Muslim groups are mistaken for groups that have done very bad things. Even Mormons cannot be said to be apolitical—in the United States, they are the most politically polarized of all faiths.12 But Jehovah’s Witnesses have claimed neutrality for their entire existence, and their “pacifist” stance is attested to by all. Just how dangerous can they be? Maybe the recent shocker of torture for a Christian group (Russians are used to it for Muslim activists suspected of “excessive radicalism,” Verkhovsky speculates) will cause the government to recalibrate.

      Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses will hope for the best and ever be respectful of government, but they can be forgiven if they become jaded at the speculations of a quick turnaround. They have seen their country sail blithely past many buoys of ludicrousness. Did not Dennis Christensen say that he hoped the judge would be fair, “but he also [knew] what country he lived in?” Did not the country ban a Bible on the basis that it is not a Bible and the entire educated world knows that it is? Did not every interested person in the world see, via the Witness website, video evidence of Russian police in riot gear scaling fences to break down the door of a Kingdom Hall en route to arresting those inside, and the only ones refusing to see it were the ones that had a moral obligation to do so—the Russian Supreme Court? Maybe this buoy will be yet one more left in the wake of the unshamable ship.

      Can the Russian authorities be shamed? Possibly not. The ban itself shames them, and they could see it come from miles away but embraced it anyway. The present reality harkens back to what columnist Andrew Sorokowski wrote prior to the ban: “Why would a nation of some 144,000,000 risk its international reputation to persecute a religious sect numbering no more than 175,000 followers?” Nonetheless, trash it they did and it is not so clear when or even if that course will reverse.13

      Mr. Verkhovsky takes for granted that Jehovah’s Witnesses will not give up on their faith. How can they? They will recall the verse about paying Caesar’s things to Caesar but God’s things to God. They will think of the verse that says you do not fear the one who can kill the body and afterwards do no more. The one to fear is the one who can take away the soul.14

      Though ever a small minority, many have protested the treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses over the past two years. Atheists have held up banners in support of them. An activist from Kaliningradian scaled a lamppost to hang as sign proclaiming: “Jehovah's Witnesses are banned, they will also ban God.”15 Perhaps he is more accurate than he knows. Nikolai Gordienko, of the Herzen Russian State University in St. Petersburg, once stated “When the experts accuse Jehovah’s Witnesses for their teachings, they do not realize that they are actually making accusations against the Bible.”16 “Of course they are scared,” Yaroslav Sivulskiy tells a source. “But it does not mean that they will cease to be Jehovah's witnesses and do what is important to them…Jehovah's witnesses are good people, but they cannot abandon their faith when the state expects this refusal from them.”17

      Just to keep things in perspective, for anyone can be too close to the forest to see the trees. Virtually all of Jehovah’s Witnesses were exiled to Siberia during the late 1940s and early 50s. Today, about 200 of them are detained out of a population of 170,000. It is outrageous, of course, and for many there is a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Still, terrible though it may be for those affected individuals, life goes on and most of the Russian Witnesses are not suffering. They are cautious, yes, but they have always been cautious. They know their country. They know their government. They know their police. They've had the potential for trouble for many years and have adjusted. For the vast majority, life goes on as usual: they work, they go to school, they marry, some have children, they visit family both Witnesses and non-Witnesses, they buy groceries, they play in the park.

      They know they must be careful, but they have always known it. They note with approval the heightened world and national attention to their faith, even if some individuals endure more than their share of injustice. They strengthen their weak ones. A few have actually stated that the last two years have been good for them because it has strengthened their relationships with each other and with their God.

      Russia is a huge country and not everyone plugs into the news. Many only vaguely know of the ban, many don’t care about it, and some, as seen above, actively don’t support it. Nor do they treat their JW acquaintances any differently because of it. This writer is told of one case where a school boss refused to dismiss a Witness employee, telling his superior that she is the best teacher he has, and he would hope for more like her. At a certain meeting location held in a private home, a Witnesses’ unbelieving husbands says: "Everybody knows that you are not extremists." That’s good to hear, for another aftermath of the Surgut episode is that one father of three, a firefighter, was thereafter fired from his job despite triggering no complaints over 20 years, joining many others of similar experience. “My three kids have been crying ever since the operatives barged down the door,” he said. “Now I have no job, but I am certain my God will show me a way through.”18

      Says Sivulskiy: “law enforcement is making monstrous efforts to find clusters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in their small gatherings”—large assemblies are out of the question.19 But Russia is a monstrous country, and efforts have been sporadic. Will they diminish, level off, or intensify? Witnesses recently reconsidered Revelation 2:10: “Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Indeed, the devil will throw some of you into prison into prison, that you may be tested, and you will face an ordeal for ten days.” “Some” does not mean “all,” it was observed, as the Witnesses continue to show resolve amidst adversity. They don’t like what is happening, but they always knew that it might.



      Every religion has its apostates. The trend now is that their activism is in direct proportion to the degree of firmness exercised within their former faith so as to encourage members to stay on the path that they have chosen. Apostates of the world have even united to wage common war against faiths they perceive as having similar attributes. And nobody has apostates more voracious than those of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

      Some members of this avid JW-opposer community gloated over this new development. By far, however, the tactics of torture were condemned by that group. Make no mistake, such condemnation is noted and appreciated, however it is also substantially watered down by the recognition that their goals are the same—that Jehovah’s Witnesses cease being Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is only in methods that they differ.

      Spiritually speaking, is it not a situation of good cop/bad cop? They hope for the same outcome. The good cop is likely sincere that he does not want you to fall into the clutches of the bad cop, for he knows how bad that bad cop can be. But they both have the same goal. Physically, of course, Jehovah’s Witnesses will far prefer the good cop. They are not superhuman and nobody wants to be mistreated. Spiritually, however, the good and the bad cop is the same. In fact, the good cop may even be worse. A thug is a thug is a thug. His malice is unmistakable and is on plain display. He doesn’t masquerade as a friend whose only aim is to help you. He doesn’t patronize you with a concocted “us versus them” scenario from which he is trying to free you.

      The mutual goal is that Jehovah’s Witnesses should no longer be Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is that talk about the hope of God’s kingdom should stop, and the grapes already on the vine should wither, and to that end there is an effort to strangle the support organization. To be sure, their methods differ. It is as though one faction says to another, “You’re going about it all wrong!” Yet the two factions are working in tandem, pressing for the same end.

      As much as the saying goes that “you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time,” sometimes you can get pretty close. The majority can be fooled for the longest time. If it were not so, then the prophets of old would not have had the time that they did—a time which was revisited upon Christians of the first century, and a time which is being revisited on Christians in Russia today:

      “What more shall I say?” the Bible writer asks. “I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, did what was righteous, obtained the promises; they closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped the devouring sword; out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle….Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and on mountains, in caves and in crevices in the earth.”20

      Jehovah’s Witnesses will put the experience off as long as they can, thank you very much, but they do not imagine themselves outsmarting the scripture, nor Jesus words that his followers would be hated.

      Anton Chivchalov, the individual who covered court proceedings via tweet at five minute intervals, per personal email to this writer, offers a gloomy assessment of how Russians view Jehovah’s Witnesses, notwithstanding that there are some who see right through it. “In Russia there are many myths about Jehovah's Witnesses that 99% people believe,” he writes. “They break up families, take people's property, kill their own children by refusing blood transfusion, American spies, want to overturn the government, etc. This is mostly the cause of the hate.”

      “Can it really be that high? what with Putin‘s recent statement of seeming support and at least a certain amount of favorable press? Are the human rights people, supportive journalists, and religious scholars all viewed as rabble-rousers?” I asked.

      “Yes,” Chivchalov answered. “They are too few. General public still hates Witnesses and approves of the repressions.21 And many people hate human rights movements too (thinking they work for the US).” Jehovah’s people are not wildly popular anywhere, but it appears that in Russia they face the most unhinged opposition, against which they are standing strong. They have this writer’s undying respect.

      Timofei Zhukov the Jehovah’s Witness hauled down to the police station where fellow congregation members were tortured, had this to say to Kommersant: “I will tell you, not as a believer, but as a lawyer—these investigators and [F.S.B agents] esfesbeshniki simply do not know what they are doing. The did not understand anything—whom they are coming to search. what kind of people these are, what they are accused of. It seems that the authorities told them: “There are bad people live there and they are corrupting the state system. Go and do what you want with them.” Where did they get the idea that Jehovah’s Witnesses were bad people?

      After the ordeal, Mr. Zhukov spoke with some of his former colleagues, who encouraged him to desist from “such nonsense.” He told them that Witnesses were doing their work for them to a great extent. “You are investigating crime, but you have a problem with prevention. And I come to people and I say: ‘It is bad to steal. It is bad to lie. It is bad to smoke.’” They are not bad people. They are good people. Jerod Kushner, the U.S. President’s son-in-law, well prior to his political days, said of the Jehovah’s Witnesses from whom he would buy property that they were persons of “high integrity” with whom “a handshake deal meant something.” The journalists of Present Time comment to the director of the Sova Center Alexander Verkhovsky, after hearing his description: “Then they look like perfect citizens.” “You see, they would be ideal citizens in some other country,” is the latter’s reply.22 They are not bad people. They are good people. So from where comes the perception that they are bad people?

      It is a question that might well have been asked in the first century. The historian Tacitus writes the following about the persecution of Christians after Nero pinned the blame upon them for burning down Rome: "Therefore, to stop the rumor [that he had set Rome on fire], he [Emperor Nero] falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition - repressed for a time, broke out yet again, not only through Judea, - where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, whither all things horrible and disgraceful flow from all quarters, as to a common receptacle, and where they are encouraged. Accordingly first those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of "hating the human race." In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights. Nero offered his own garden players for the spectacle, and exhibited a Circensian game, indiscriminately mingling with the common people in the dress of a charioteer, or else standing in his chariot. For this cause a feeling of compassion arose towards the sufferers, though guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment, because they seemed not to be cut off for the public good, but were victims of the ferocity of one man."23

      Note the dim view of Christians, fully shared by Tacitus. They were “hated for their enormities.” They were readily thought to be persons “hating the human race.” They were the deluded followers of a “pernicious superstition.” The cruel wrath of Nero unleashed genuine compassion, however they were regarded “guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment.” How could this have been perceived of Christ’s followers only 35 years after his death?

      Professor G. A. Wells, author of The Jesus Myth, writes that “the context of Tacitus’ remarks itself suggests that he relied on Christian informants.”24 Who could possibly have been their “informants?” They could not have been faithful members, for these would not “inform.” They could not have been non-members, for these would not have anything to “inform” about. There is little left to choose from other than former disgruntled members—today (and then) we would call them “apostates.” These came to wish their former faith ill. Perhaps some of them even posed as reformers of that faith, whistleblowers to whatever upset them—particularly if they had been ousted for conduct contrary to tenets of the faith.

      The parallels are too blatant to ignore. If it was they in former times, how can it not be they in present times? How else can such a manifestly good people—in the first century and in the present—be so widely portrayed as bad? It is the “apostates” that present that picture of good portrayed as bad. It is the apostates that spark the conflagration, with unrelenting and incendiary charges. Any student of human nature knows that if you repeat a charge often enough, no matter how unlikely, it impresses itself on the general populace. Surely advertising teaches us that. The match doesn’t catch everywhere, but in Russia if finds the kindling just right—a government hostile for 100 years to the land in which Witness headquarters is located, at the same time in close union with the dominant house church, hostile to even traditional Christian faiths. It doesn’t happen everywhere. But the apostates ever light the match to encourage conflagration and sometime the planets align.

      The religious enemies of the Jesus’ day had to be careful: “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled...and they consulted together to arrest Jesus by treachery and put him to death. But they said: ‘Not during the festival, that there may not be a riot among the people.’”25 They could have done it at the festival had the festival been held in Russia. There wouldn’t have been a riot. There would have been widespread approval. They could have done it at the festival had the festival been held in Rome, too. There was widespread approval back then—such is the change in popular perception wrought by then and now apostates.

      Kommersant asked Mr. Zhukov why the government persecutes his people, and he told them that he didn’t really know—he could speculate, but he didn’t really know.26 It was the same answer as President Putin himself offered just two months ago—he didn’t really know why Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted. Mr. Zhukov did note however, that early Christians, too, were called “sectarians” and that they, too, had been persecuted.

      Even the Russian president can’t figure it out! Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, writes that his “comments are hard to explain other than as an expression of genuine puzzlement over so much effort being expended to eliminate an evidently nonexistent threat.”27 How can it not be the machinations of someone devious? What arguments does that international community of apostates/opposers to the faith make? They are settling the score, largely, in the cases of those who were disfellowshipped, spinning for an irreligious world the myth that Jehovah’s Witnesses break up families, a point of view that was not accepted by the European Court of Human Rights: “It is the resistance and unwillingness of non-religious family members to accept and to respect their religious relative’s freedom to manifest and practice his or her religion that is the source of conflict.”28 Many, even most today, will look askance at any scenario in which spiritual considerations can trigger a family divide—no matter from which side it arises, but they will not think it an evil that compares with global terrorism. Families have divided since the beginning of time, often for matters far more fleeting than religion. In the West, it is not uncommon for the elderly to be abandoned in nursing homes, never to be contacted again, for no greater reason that they have become inconvenient. It is not something in which governments typically wish to meddle.

      No, it makes no sense, the mass portrayal of Jehovah’s Witnesses as “bad people.” If they refuse blood transfusions, surely it must be acknowledged somewhere along the line that progressive doctors have learned to accommodate their point of view, and it so doing, they have devised medicine that is both safer and more cost-effective.29 And, though it has played no part in Russia, a widespread war against child sexual abuse finds Jehovah’s Witness “clergy” accused of covering up pedophilia. This is an unsavory thing, yet they come off almost as knights in shining armor when compared to religious denominations in general in which the leaders themselves have been the pedophile abusers.30 The “us versus them” scenario avidly advanced by apostates has caught on. Roman Silantyev of Moscow State Linguistic University complains that “this sect promotes external and inner extremism, inciting hatred to those who think and believe in a different way and bullying their own members,” and even hopes that “recognizing this sect as extremist [will give] a possibility to dozens of our citizens to leave this concentration camp.” He has been conditioned to misunderstand everything. Jehovah’s Witnesses will continue to carry out the tenets of their religious beliefs “because they are operating out of faith rather than compulsion.”31

      Silantyev is “crazy” and yet his craziness has spread to influence those whom you would think would not be crazy to act in crazy ways. Writes Bandow: “Moscow denies that it is persecuting JWs for their beliefs. Rather, explained Vyacheslav Lebedev, chief justice of the Russian Supreme Court, ‘the situation is actually being presented as if these people are being persecuted for their belief and religious activity. Yet the decision, which was made by the Supreme Court amongst others, is unrelated to religion. It is about a violation of the law, which religious organizations have no right to breach.’ The law bans the faith, so punishing them for exercising their faith is merely punishing a violation of the law. This argument is perfectly Orwellian. Translating Lebedev: We declared your religious faith to be extremist, and you are not allowed to be extremists. So we are arresting you for being extremists. But feel free to practice your faith and have a good day.”

      This writer would be a wealthy individual indeed if he had a few dollars for every disgruntled ex-Witness who, upon failing to turn the JW ship in the direction of his choosing, went on scorch the JW earth with terminology from George Orwell’s 1984. Witnesses practice “doublethink” and have “thought police” who sniff out ones committing “thoughtcrime,” or even ones who fail to do “goodthink” (thought approved by the party). It is an intensification of a trend seen everywhere: failing to sway the other side and consequently declaring them “arrogant.” Yet the first actual instance of 1984 comes, not from Jehovah’s Witnesses, but from those who oppose them. If memory serves, was not Mr. O’Brien a pleasant and refined man on the surface, posing as Winston’s friend, before revealing his true character—and thus combining both good cop and bad cop into a single character?


      *In fact, the Russian investigation into torture found, in a very short time, that there was nothing to it at all.32

      1…Chernykh, Alexander, “We are the same people as you, but now we are called criminals and extremists,” Kommersant, March 1, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019, https://kommersant.ru/doc/3899000

      2…Carroll, Oliver, “Russia’s Jehovah’s Witnesses Allege ‘21’st Century Inquistion’ Amid Claims of Torture,” Independent, February 21, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-jehovahs-witness-crackdown-surgut-religion-discrimination-a8790761.html

      3…Zavlayov, Dmity, “Source: Jehovah's Witnesses, Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug, are trying to ruin a criminal case with accusations against security officials,” Ura.News, February 28, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019, https://ura.news/news/1052374340

      4…Pomomarev, Lev, “Read and Watch,” blog post for echo.msk.ru, February 26, 2019, assessed March 15, 2019, https://echo.msk.ru/blog/lev_ponomarev/2378667-echo/

      5…“ECHR Imposes Interim Measures in Response to Torture Complaint From Surgut,” jw-russia.org, February 27, 2019

      6…Luxmoore, Matthew, “‘Time Becomes a Blur When You’re Experiencing Great Pain’: Russian Jehovah’s Witness Alleges Police Torture,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, February 22, 2019

      7…Lemon, Jason, “Jehovah’s Witnesses Tortured With Electric Shocks and Suffocation in Russia, Church Says” Newsweek, February 23, 2019

      8…“Russia Says it Will Probe Jehovah’s Witnesses Torture Claim,” apnews.com, February 23, 2019, accessed March 19, 2019, https://apnews.com/f43f396dac9c4159987493f92123a3f9

      9… Also, see   Crusade Against Christianity, (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1938) . Regarding this book, the 1965 Watchtower volume, December 1, 1965 issue, recalls on page 733: “Meantime in Germany, the Nazi fury rages and our brothers are exposed to frightful, inhuman persecution, which they withstand even at the cost of their lives. Documented material that reaches our office about such persecution is carefully preserved. Then Brother Rutherford approves publishing a book giving the evidence of the sufferings of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany. It appears under the title “Kreuzzug gegen das Christentum in the German language. It is also published in French and Polish.” See some of diagrams at “The Evils of Nazism Exposed,” Awake!, August 22, 1995, 11.

      10…”Stories of Surgut "Jehovah's Witnesses" about torture in the TFR shocked the Ugra Ombudsman,” Znak.com, February 25, 2019, accessed March 16, 2019, https://www.znak.com/2019-02-25/rasskazy_surgutskih_svideteley_iegovy_o_pytkah_v_skr_shokirovali_yugorskogo_ombudsmena

      11… Verkhovsky, Alexander, “The Fight Against Religious Extremism’ all Widers, Need to be Narrowed Down,” ng.ru, March 5, 2019


      12….  Michael Lipka, “U.S. Religious Groups and Their Political Leanings,” Pew Research Center, February 23, 2016, accessed March 9, 2019

      13…Andrew Sorokowski, “Witnesses to Persecution,” Religious Information Service of Ukraine, May 5, 2017, accessed March 23, 2018, https://risu.org.ua/article_print.php?id=66964&name=asorokowski_column&_lang=en&

      14…Matthew 10:28

      15…”They Will Also Ban God,” klops.ru, Mrch 9, 2019, accessed March 11, 2019, https://news.rambler.ru/other/41842016

      16…Emily P. Baran, Dissent on the Margins - How Jehovah’s Witnesses Defied Communism and Lived to Preach About It (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014) 240

      17…Ryzhova, Anna, "Get Rid of Witnesses," Russian-reporter, February 25, 2019, accessed March 16, 2019, http://expert.ru/russian_reporter/2019/03/izbavitsya-ot-svidetelej/

      18…ibid….Carroll, Oliver, “Russia’s Jehovah’s Witnesses Allege ‘21’st Century Inquistion’ Amid Claims of Torture,” Independent, February 21, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-jehovahs-witness-crackdown-surgut-religion-discrimination-a8790761.html

      19…2nd notice …Ryzhova, Anna, "Get Rid of Witnesses," Russian-reporter, February 25, 2019, accessed March 16, 2019, http://expert.ru/russian_reporter/2019/03/izbavitsya-ot-svidetelej/

      20…Hebrews 11:32-38

      21…Chivchalov’s comment does not entirely square with remarks I made above (based upon the visits of a personal acquaintance who has traveled in Russia) but I believe it is a case of no one person seeing the entire picture. Plainly the ‘99%’ is hyperbole. The title says it all in this Moscow Times article: “Many Russians Don’t Know the Jehovah’s Witnesses, But They Still Want Them Banned” (themoscowtimes.com, July 13, 2017). Chivchalov himself said at the time that it depends upon how the subject is breached. If it is just a matter of shooing away uninvited callers, most Russians will say yes. But if it is a matter of sending those ones to jail, they will not go that far.


      23…Tacitus, Annals, 117 c.e.

      24….Wells, G. A., The Historical Evidence for Jesus, (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1982) 17

      25…Mathew 26: 3-5

      26… Chernykh, Alexander, “We Are the Same”

      27…Bandow, Doug, “Persecutors Pile on Jehovah’s Witnesses, in Russia and Worldwide,” nationalreview.com, March 1, 2019, assessed March 21, 2019, https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/03/jehovahs-witnesses-persecuted-russia-worldwide

      28…Fautre, Willie, “Cults and Religious Freedom Around the World,” address to the ICSA Annual International Conference, Montreal Canada, July 5-7, 2012, accessed March 21, 2019, https://www.academia.edu/5201173/Cult_Issues_and_Religous_Freedom

      29… “An Act of Faith in the Operating Room,” New Scientist, April 26, 2008

      30…See the category https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/pedophiles (by this author)

      31….Bandow, Doug, “Persecutors Pile”

      32…”The Examination Found No Signs of Torture in the Follower of “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” RIA Novosti, Moscow, March 21, 2019


    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      – JW Headquarters (19.03.2019) – Almost two years after the ban of their movement in Russia, 150 Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently under investigation.Already in 2019 Russian law enforcement has conducted raids on JWs in 10 cities in 6 regions (in 2018 Russian agents conducted 280 searches in about 40 regions throughout the Federation).
      Latest figures regarding JWs facing criminal charges throughout Russia:
      Pretrial Detention: 24
      House arrest: 26
      Ban on activities: 5
      Recognizance: 55
      Wanted: 4
      Another EU citizen detained in Russia: Andrzej Oniszczuk from Poland
      Andrzej Oniszczuk, 50, has been kept in solitary confinement for over five months, and is not permitted to lie down from 06:00 to 21:00. He is only allowed to take a shower with hot water once a week for 15 minutes. The administration of the detention center in Kirov refuses to allow Andrzej to have a Bible.
      For the five months Andrzej has been detained, his wife, Anna, has not been allowed to visit him and has only communicated with him by letter. She has submitted several requests to visit Andrzej in prison; however the investigator in Kirov has repeatedly denied her requests. Typically prisoners in Russia can have visits from close family members, so it is unclear why such extreme action has been taken to keep Anna from seeing her husband.
      You may recall that Andrzej was arrested on Oct 9, 2018, when local police and masked special-forces raided 19 homes and one former place of worship for JWs in Kirov, Russia. Andrzej is being accused of “extremist” activity for simply singing biblical songs, improving the skills of missionary work, and studying religious literature.
      At the outset, Andrzej Oniszczuk was forced to sign a document under duress wherein he agreed to refuse visits by the Poland Embassy, so the embassy was initially unable to contact/assist. However, after several requests by the embassy, they have finally been allowed to visit/assist Andrzej. The address where Andrzej is being held:  FKU SIZO-1, UFSIN of Russia, Kirov Region, ul. Mopra, d. 1, Kirov, 610004. Andrzej’s pretrial detention has been extended twice (now through April 2, 2019).
      A total of seven men in Kirov are facing criminal charges for practicing their faith. Four men (44-yr-old Maksim Khalturin, 66-yr-old Vladimir Korobeynikov, 26-yr-old Andrey Suvorkov, and 41-yr-old Yevgeniy Suvorkov) had been arrested in October 2018 and held in pretrial along with Andrzej. Yevgeniy continues in pretrial detention, however the three others have been released to house arrest. Two other men (63-yr-old Vladimir Vasilyev and 25-yr-old Vladislav Grigorenko) from Kirov have been under investigation since January 21, 2019 but are not yet under any restrictions.
      BIO: Andrzej was born October 3, 1968 in the city of Białystok in northeastern Poland. After graduating from school, he became a lathe operator. Andrzej enjoys reading Russian literature, especially Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, and Pasternak. In 1997, he moved to Russia and worked for himself in the city of Kirov. There he met Anna, and they married in 2002.
      Anna, Andrzej Oniszczuk’s wife, has agreed to talk to journalists (Polish or Russian only). Her phone number +7(961) 748 2088 (via Telegram or Signal).
      Sergey Skrynnikov under threat of three years in prison
      On the heels of the Zheleznodorozhniy District Court of Oryol sentencing Dennis Christensen to six years in prison, another one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Sergey Skrynnikov, also from Oryol is being criminally tried at the same court for his peaceful worship as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and a verdict is expected on April 1, 2019.
      On 18 March, prosecutor Nadezhda Naumova recommended that the Court sentence 56-yr-old Sergey to three years in prison followed by one year of additional restrictions for so-called extremist activity. Closing statements by the defense will be next Thursday March 28, with the court’s verdict will be at 10am on Monday April 1.
      For more information, please contact Yaroslav Sivulskiy in Russia: (ysivulsk@jw.org; call or WhatsApp +7 985 359 34 10; +371 2 0044105).
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    • So the " great crowd"  will learn all things by themselves?  They do not need an organized  place to attend meetings? .... which is instructed by the bible to attend so we can strengthen each other? This is why I call you out as misleading and false....... where is your worldwide organization which is providing place for people of all nations to gather and worship jehovah?  And teach them live and neutrality so they truly view themselves as one nation with no borders dividing them...... There are so many other scriptures which indicate otherwise while you create an argument over the only scripture that 'may' indicate it because of an argument over a preposition....... are you changing the entire truth based on your 'desire' to start 'ruling now?    We are being 'taught ' now by that 'slave'  you hate.     But you may be running ahead about the 1000 year reign..... don't you think?   Don't be patronizing to me..... I know that because of jehovahs spirit working in them.   But the bible clearly indicates that they will judge and rule when they are in heaven......   
    • Nothing is beyond your extreme criticism lol.  Go buy yourself a little patch in London or in any other capital city like New York and see what it costs you.   If they needed a space for someone or a worker, or even for guests or whatever, they would have bought it because it was needed at the time and is now no longer needed.   Says the exceedingly worldly guy......  If they sell the property to help brothers they are wicked and if they buy it to help brothers they are wicked....... do you sound reasonable to yourselves?   Thanks to Jehovah you are not the final judges because you will put all JWs in Auschwitz......just for being JWs..... ah, you may still help the world to do that in future ..... who knows? 
    • Now I understand why many executives disallow any reports to them longer than one page. They KNOW how easy it is to be hypnotized by many words, which for some, is a finely tuned art form.
    • Lol. Same thoughts here. That is why I posted it, genuinely wondering if anyone really read it when it was first published. But then people did read a lot more 50 years ago...... but then they also might have been clueless and just, like I said, zeroed in on the number 1975, which was a mere 7 years away at the time..... If it's any consolation, I only read to about paragraph 10 😃
    • Nope we can’t blame their lack of inspiration by Holy Spirit on distance.  What they do blame it on, is Jesus.  Of course, Jesus did not tell us that his faithful slave would produce perfect spiritual food. w17 February p. 26 In light of this admittance, what is absolutely ironic is the emphasis on “pure language”. It is especially noteworthy that the language that God gives his servants is said to be pure. This is true, not because of grammatical construction, but because it gives evidence of moral and spiritual cleanness. There is no allowance in this language for lying, deceit, or a tricky tongue. Those who speak this language must always speak truth. w91 4/1 p. 24-25 The organization boasts that “pure language” is found in the organization, when at the same time its leaders fail in providing truth.  Jesus did promise to teach his faithful servants “all things”, which would be “perfect spiritual food”.  John 14:26; 1 John 2:27  Since the GB cannot receive it, neither do they receive the “pure language” from God...or anyone who learns from them.        
    • Anna: .... I tried to read all that stuff from the 1968 Watchtower you posted.  I REALLY did. But I concluded that the whole thing could probably be condensed to two short paragraphs, and to read it in it's entirety would probably be fatal to me, from the handful of caffeine tablets I would need to finish it. ...continuing with TTH's comments about John F. Kennedy being the impetus to get mankind to the Moon ..... the thought just occurred to me that with all his foibles, weaknesses, and missteps, ( Bay of Pigs .. what's THAT?), and setting the stage for the Vietnam War, etc., he was sorta like the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, with all their foibles and general cluelessness. What he did RIGHT ... makes up for everything else, with change left over. Same thing.
    • My opening scriptures were Rev 5:9,10.  If you will look again at the WT’s Greek Interlinear, it states that the kings/priests will reign ON the earth.  Do you want to change that truth, Arauna?  If you could only see that a “new creation” is both heavenly and human.  They will serve God in heaven and as the early priests were commissioned to do – teach and serve the people under the direction of their High Priest, Jesus Christ..  Mal 2:7; Rev 1:5,6; 7:15  Can God’s priesthood teach the people if they remain in a spiritual state that the rest of God’s children do not have access to?  Can they say these words and be heard if they are out of contact with God’s future children?... “And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And the one who hears, let him say, “Come!” And the one who is thirsty, let him come. The one who wants, let him take the water of life freely.”  Rev 22:17 Can “New Jerusalem” prepared as a bride, come down from heaven if it is to remain in heaven?  Rev 22:2 Remember, the “144,000” are the Temple, the Holy City.  They bring God’s Spirit/direction/guidance to His children.   And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with humanity, and he will take up residence with them, and they will be his people and God himself will be with them.  Rev 21:3 The dwelling of God is the Temple/House of God – 1 Cor 3:16,17; 1 Cor 6:19; Eph 2:20-22 So, his ability to come back to earth has now passed.  Is this what you are saying?  Where are the scriptures that support this?  I have provided scripture that show Jesus returning to the earth. And after he had said these things, while they were watching, he was taken up, and a cloud received him from their sight. 10 And as they were staring into the sky while he was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood by them 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand there lookin] into the sky? This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven like this will come back in the same way you saw him departing into heaven!” Acts 1:9-11 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “And let all the angels of God worship him.”  Heb 1:6  I am pretty amazed that Gen 28:12-17 and John 1:51 do not help you see that Jesus will be on the earth in the Kingdom.  I hope you actually read them.  A symbolic stairway in Jacob's vision is set up between heaven and earth.  The descendants of Jacob in Genesis, are “Israel”.  His descendants, the “144,000” inherit the earth.  Jesus referred to the stairway again in John, with his “angel”/messengers “ascending and descending” upon the Son of Man.   An anointed, refined and found faithful can be sealed while on the earth.  Yet even so, their obedience only to Christ must continue until he returns.  1 Cor 1:21,22; Eph 1:13; 4:30 Can you see you are creating a doctrine with no sound basis?  How do you know this?  You speak of unity among all in the organization, yet they are all individuals, both men and women.  You have even in error, designated that the organization's members are the Body of Christ.  But, when it comes the the true anointed Body of Christ you now say there will be no men or women, but clones as your GB portray them, once God's Kingdom arrives.  You are applying two sets of standards, which is hypocrisy.    Yes they do...in heaven.   You can see the slaves however you like, but I detect you looking through the lens of the GB who are telling all JWs lies about the anointed ones.  I see what scripture points out clearly, that the elders have usurped the role of God’s priesthood. Matt 24:15,16; 2 Thess 2:3,4; Rev 11:1-3; 13:6  Revelation’s “Jezebel” feeds God’s servants/slaves lies, and expects gratitude given to an organization, an idol.  Your very words speak their lies. The ancient Jezebel killed the prophets of God (1 Kings 18:13);  today’s “Jezebel” spiritually “kills” any anointed as well as their companions who see truth and reveal “her” lies.  Rev 13:11,14-17 But I have against you that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, the one who calls herself a prophetess,(Rev 13:11) and teaches and deceives my slaves to commit sexual immorality (spiritual harlotry) and to eat food sacrificed to idols.  Rev 2:20 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear, and will produce great signs and wonders in order to deceive, if possible, even the elect    
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