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Persecutors Pile on Jehovah’s Witnesses, in Russia and Worldwide

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Even Putin has suggested that the campaign against the religious minority may be unwarranted.

Christians are the most widely persecuted religious believers around the globe. They are the most numerous people of faith worldwide. They also tend to evangelize, threatening established religions. Moreover, especially in some Muslim nations, local Christians are assumed to be strong supporters of Israel and agents of America and U.S. foreign policy. The result is an increasingly tenuous existence for Christians in many lands.

However, smaller faiths tend to face more intense hostility. Jews, of course, are the traditional scapegoats for numerous ills. Bahá’is are seen by Muslims as apostates. And Jehovah’s Witnesses now are under sustained attack in Russia.

JWs, as they are known (and call themselves), might seem an odd addition to that list. While active, their numbers remain relatively low, about 8.5 million worldwide. Their largest national home is America. The next two are Mexico and Brazil, which exist in a region with the least religious persecution. JWs reject any political role. They do not threaten the existing order anywhere.

Yet Russia has imposed a six-year sentence on a Danish JW, Dennis Christensen, for “organizing the activity of an extremist organization.” In 2016 the government recognized the JW faith as “extremist”; the following year the country’s supreme court ruled the JW church to be an “extremist organization” and banned it. Although Christensen knew that his faith had been outlawed, explained the prosecutor, the JW unsurprisingly continued to proselytize, hold meetings, and distribute literature. He was arrested in May 2017 at a worship service and is now set to serve six years in a penal colony — which will be decidedly less pleasant than the prisons in Christensen’s homeland.

Unfortunately, he is not the only such victim of Russian persecution. Last year Moscow launched a vigorous nationwide campaign against JWs. Earlier this month the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses published a special report, “Russia: State-Sponsored Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses Continues.”

From September 2017 to January 2019, the church reported, the Putin government has mounted 300 raids, mostly of homes. Twenty-three people have been jailed, 27 have been placed under house arrest, 41 have been ordered to remain in their hometown, and 121 have been placed under investigation. The church has complained that government security agents use “heavy-handed tactics against the Witnesses as though they were dealing with hardened criminals. The authorities point guns in the face of Witnesses, including children and the elderly — and manhandle them.” Property worth $90 million is subject to confiscation. More than 100 properties, including the large administrative center, have already been seized, and some 300 more face confiscation.

The report goes on to list the other JWs facing charges. They should not be forgotten.

Three currently are on trial: Sergey Skrynnikov, Yuriy Zalipayev, and Arkadya Akopyan. (The latter is 71 years old.)

In pretrial detention are Aleksandr Akopov, Vladimir Atryakhin, Dmitriy Barmakin, Konstantin Bazhenov, Sergey Britvin, Aleksey Budenchuk, Sergey Klimov, Vadim Levchuk, Feliks Makhammadiyev, Valeriy Moskalenko, Georgiy Nikulin, Andrzej Oniszczuk, Konstantin Samsonov, Yuriy Savelyev, Andrey Sazonov, Aleksandr Shevchuk, Nataliya Sorokina, Yevgeniy Spirin, Andrey Stupnikov, Shamil Sultanov, Yeveniy Suvorkov, and Mariya Troshina.

Such a campaign might be appropriate against a terrorist organization. But against a group of religious believers whose behavior is decidedly harmless? The armed assaults demonstrate that the Russian government is determined to halt private worship as well as organizational activity.

For targeting JWs and other peaceful religious minorities, Russia has been designated a “country of particular concern” by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. In its annual report on persecutors worldwide, USCIRF observed that the Putin government has “continued to target ‘nontraditional’ religious minorities, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientologists, with fines, detentions, and criminal charges under the pretext of combating extremism. Most notably, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned outright, as was their translation of the Bible, and their followers persecuted nationwide.”

Although Russia has gained the distinction of being just about the only majority-Christian country to persecute, it is not the only nation to ban JWs. Twenty-six Muslim nations do so, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and even reasonably liberal Kuwait, as well as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Somalia, and Yemen. Several are Communist, such as China, North Korea, and Vietnam, or formerly Communist. Eritrea, Lebanon, and Singapore are also on the list.

Why such hostility? The sect was founded in the U.S. in the 1870s. Its doctrines, including non-trinitarianism and teachings on the role of Jesus Christ, differ significantly from those of traditional Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic. JWs rely on their own biblical translation, have a unique eschatology, and are noted for rejecting blood transfusions and refusing to celebrate traditional religious holidays. However, being different isn’t reason for persecution. (I have several JW relatives and friends. Their theology is not for me, but they are uniformly warm, decent people.)

More significant, perhaps, is the separationist nature of JWs. An intense community rather like the Amish, they expel members through disfellowship. They refuse to accord government the respect that public officials crave or to honor the state — to say the Pledge of Allegiance in America, for example, or to serve in the military anywhere. Such attitudes may have generated the Russian claim that they are guilty of “social hostility.” Presumably they are seen as focusing on those within their community rather than without.

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.

Some critics appear to imagine that they are dealing with something akin to al-Qaeda. For instance, Roman Silantyev of Moscow State Linguistic University complained 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.” He went on to claim that “recognizing this sect as extremist gave a possibility to dozens of our citizens to leave this concentration camp.” Silantyev appears not to understand religion: Despite the threat of arrest and prison, JWs continue to meet, because they are operating out of faith rather than compulsion.

JWs also are known for evangelism, highlighted by their going door to door. This stirs harsh resistance by majority faiths, especially those that are as much political as religious. The Russian Orthodox Church is hostile even to traditional Christian faiths. It would be difficult for its hierarchy to advocate banning Catholic and Protestant churches with roots as deep as its own, but JWs are an easier target.

President Vladimir Putin admitted as much. When asked why his government targeted JWs, Putin dismissed the charge. But, he admitted, “our society does not consist solely of religious sects. Ninety percent of citizens of the Russian Federation or so consider themselves Orthodox Christians. . . . It is also necessary to take into account the country and the society in which we live.” Translation: JW’s are different and don’t fit in. This attitude also may explain attacks by groups and individuals on JWs, their homes, and meeting halls.

Putin offered a glimmer of hope in December when he allowed that one should not “label representatives of religious communities as member of destructive, much less terrorist organizations” and acknowledged that he did not “quite understand why they are persecuted,” so “this should be looked into, this must be done.” Although Putin’s references to human rights should be treated with more than a few grains of salt, he appears to respect religion, and these 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.

Russia’s persecution of JWs pales compared with the punishment, including violence, inflicted on religious minorities elsewhere. Consider the horrors that continue to afflict religious minorities in the Middle East. Conflict zones in Iraq and Syria have shrunk, but Christians, Yazidis, and others continue to be at risk. Both sides of the Sunni–Shia divide, represented by Saudi Arabia and Iran, are inhospitable homes for non-Muslims, as well as for the “wrong” Muslims. American client states, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, are little better.

 

Nevertheless, the precarious status of JWs worldwide shows the breadth and reach of the problem of religious persecution. In Russia, thousands of people, largely ignored owing to their small numbers and relative isolation, are being punished for their faith, persecuted for no plausible reason. The arbitrariness of the state is matched only by the hardship inflicted on the affected individuals and families.

The freedom of Jehovah’s Witnesses should be on the religious-liberty agenda. Indeed, given the concern expressed even by Putin, American and European officials should raise the issue when they meet their Russian counterparts. The agenda with Russia is crowded. However, liberty of conscience is always worth defending. Especially when success doesn’t require armed campaigns and regime change.

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/03/jehovahs-witnesses-persecuted-russia-worldwide/

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53 minutes ago, Indiana said:

Although Christensen knew that his faith had been outlawed, explained the prosecutor, the JW unsurprisingly continued to proselytize, hold meetings, and distribute literature

They actually don’t distribute literature there. Their proselytizing consists of only speaking from the Bible itself. They have conformed to all laws, draconian though they may be, and the recent incidences of torture are considered by believers to be efforts to manufacture evidence that they are not.

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Oh, and here from the article is another example of 1984: 

“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.”

Does it square with other applications of 1984 that you have seen, @James Thomas Rook Jr.?

 

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1 hour ago, Indiana said:

President Vladimir Putin admitted as much. When asked why his government targeted JWs, Putin dismissed the charge. But, he admitted, “our society does not consist solely of religious sects. Ninety percent of citizens of the Russian Federation or so consider themselves Orthodox Christians. . . . It is also necessary to take into account the country and the society in which we live.” Translation: JW’s are different and don’t fit in. This attitude also may explain attacks

Violence of all sort is unacceptable, intolerable. But, we all participate in it in some way, to some extent. Think about it!!

Now please, go to past and recall how God's chosen people, named Israel, dealt with people who didn't fit in their society. 

Now, go in today reality of another God's chosen people aka Jehovah's Witnesses. In their society the  rules     are based on similar or same "principles". Person from out side, aka "worldly people", or "questionable" member, don't fit in also. Yes, JW members do not put problematic member or ex-JW into prison, Siberia etc, but they also have "violent" methods on how to deal with such one. These methods are shunning, ignoring, conditioning.

Yes, exposing another man, your neighbor, even family member, to such types of church punishments because he/she do not fit to your religious ideas and customs (doctrinal matters) is showing strong violence and cruelty, with same or similar effects as physical violence.  

If some JW people try to look in desired future time, according to his/her hope, then we have another level of possible violence that major group, aka all JW worshipers in New World, will show to all individuals who will not fit to JW picture of life in Paradise under JW Society Condition. And what that will be, how will it look like? Maybe we can found out something from history and present time of all this God's Worshipers! 

 

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57 minutes ago, TrueTomHarley said:

They have conformed to all laws,

What reports, who confirms this claim?

JW literature was always give reports and experience how members obeyed more god aka organizational WT instructions than governments. Secret meetings, secret preaching, secret transport of publications, hiding of all sorts. JW History not supports claim you presented.

I am living Witness, because lived in part of the world where JW activity was cca 2/3 free, 1/3 not tolerated.

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It’s pretty well documented that they may removed literature from their Kingdom Halls and public ministry long ago. Whether some have it squirreled away in other places, I wouldn’t know. I would think it unlikely because nobody is crowing about finding it. When police did find some at Kingdom Halls, security cameras clearly showed they had planted it there themselves.

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9 hours ago, TrueTomHarley said:

It’s pretty well documented that they may removed literature from their Kingdom Halls

Possible.  Do you know where they removed literature? In recycling paper boxes? Or in basements?  

9 hours ago, TrueTomHarley said:

When police did find some at Kingdom Halls, security cameras clearly showed they had planted it there themselves.

Maybe police playing this game with "theocratic warfare" rules. 

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13 hours ago, Srecko Sostar said:

Maybe police playing this game with "theocratic warfare" rules. 

I think they are finding it a challenge operating in a land where the constitution says they can be Jehovah’s Witnesses but the law says they can be Jehovah’s Witnesses as long as they are not Jehovah’s Witnesses. This may make perfect sense to you, but I think they are finding it a challenge.

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31 minutes ago, TrueTomHarley said:

in a land where the constitution says they can be Jehovah’s Witnesses but the law says they can be Jehovah’s Witnesses as long as they are not Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Sort of Patriot law, or anti-terror legislative as in other countries. Question is, what inspired, motivated Russian government to put JW on list. JW people "preaching"? JW Religious legislative and teachings can be in some aspects recognized as "extremism". And they are. So, why to be so surprised with measures of states? They protect their interests, as WT protects their interests too.

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On 3/1/2019 at 12:41 PM, TrueTomHarley said:

1984

I love that book. With each chapter, with each situation, you start to realize how things of today mirrors that of the book of George Orwell. That being said, it is very tragic as to how no one sees the timeline, and or the truth of the matter with all things Russia, you'd think people vanishing off the streets in some parts of Russia was a red flag, but no.

The irony is, such ones would applaud Russia and side with them on their actions, but in the end, they would be overwhelmed by the one they called and saw as an ally. Reminds me of the Harlot and the beast, and how the beast turned on her.

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      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)
      http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2510
    • 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.”
      https://jw-russia.org/en/news/19092900-1175.html
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      A Baku court fined Kamran Huseynzade four months' average wages for selling religious books outside a mosque without state permission. The head of the censorship department at the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations lamented that only 42 of 100 places selling religious literature have the required state licence. All published and imported religious literature is subject to prior compulsory censorship.
      Amid the continuing imposition of state censorship of all religious literature published and distributed in Azerbaijan or imported into it, a court in the capital Baku has handed down another large fine for selling religious literature without state permission. A judge fined Kamran Huseynzade about four months' average wages. The 180 books seized from him were confiscated.
       
      Surakhani District Court, Baku
      RFE/RL
      Huseynzade faced charges not related to the content of the books but solely to offering the books for sale without state permission. He chose not to appeal against his fine (see below).

      The head of the department that censors religious literature and objects at the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations, Nahid Mammadov, lamented at a conference on state censorship on 23 September that only 42 of the more than 100 shops selling religious literature across the country have the required state licence. He complained that the unlicensed shops "create certain problems" (see below).

      Mammadov was not in the office at the State Committee on 27 September. One of his colleagues put the phone down when Forum 18 asked why all religious literature is subject to prior compulsory state censorship (see below).

      When police detain Jehovah's Witnesses on the street as they share their faith with others, officers often seize any religious literature they find. Similarly, during raids on Jehovah's Witness meetings in homes, police often check whether religious publications have the required sticker from the State Committee showing that they have undergone the state religious censorship (see below).

      Muslim theologian Elshad Miri is preparing to lodge a case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in October over the 2018 State Committee ban on the publication of one of his books on Islam. Four Jehovah's Witness cases over state bans on the import of their literature are still pending with the court, as is a case lodged by Muslims who study the works of the late Turkish Muslim theologian Said Nursi (see below).
      http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2509
    • 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.
      https://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/48582/
    • 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.
      https://en.crimerussia.com/international/poland-refuses-to-extradite-banker-to-russia-because-he-is-jehovah-s-witnesses-member-/
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      This week marked 25 years in prison without charges or trial for three men in Eritrea. The trio—identified as Paulos Eyasu, Isaac Mogos and Negede Teklemariam—have been incarcerated in the East African nation since 1994, after refusing to partake in military service, part of their pacifist beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses.
      Authorities arrested Eyasu, Mogos and Teklemariam on September 17, 1994, but formal charges were never filed and they've never come before the court. In 2017, they were transferred to Mai Serwa prison, where they were allowed visitors for the first time, according to Human Rights Watch.

      Paulos Eyasu, Isaac Mogos and Negede Teklemariam have been imprisoned in Eritrea since 1994.JW.ORG
      https://www.newsweek.com/jehovahs-witness-eritrea-prison-1460564
    • 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
      Tuesday marks the 25th anniversary of the imprisonment of three Jehovah's Witnesses in Eritrea, where they have been subject to torture and allowed little contact with the world outside the prison walls.
      Paulos Eyasu, Isaac Mogos, and Negede Teklemariam were detained on Sept. 17, 1994, apparently because they conscientiously objected to military service, according to a report published in August by the Jehovah's Witnesses' Office of Public Information. They were held at the Sawa military training camp until 2017, when they were transferred to Mai Serwa prison, where they were briefly granted access to visitors for the first time since their imprisonment. None of the three have been charged or granted a hearing.
      Their detention has also proven painful for friends and family, and one described his sorrow at losing his friend a quarter-century ago.
      "I was with him the night before they arrested him," said Eyasu's friend, who asked for anonymity for protection. "Our families spent the whole evening together. That was the last time I saw my friend. He has been imprisoned for the past 25 years. It was very painful to lose such a friend. I know he has not done anything wrong, and he has been suffering for so long, it really breaks my heart. He was a very honest, hardworking, upright man. He was young and a person of impeccable character."
      Read more: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/it-was-very-painful-to-lose-such-a-friend-jehovahs-witnesses-imprisoned-in-eritrea-mark-25-years-of-captivity-and-torture
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Some brothers in Zimbabwe say that literature has been witheld for 5 months by government. Authorities  claim that witnesses owe  them money. JWs trust that Jehovah will arrange the matters. 
      Has anyone hear about this? 
      Please comment below, thanks 
       

    • 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. 
      https://jw-russia.org/en/news/19081510-1069.html
    • Guest
      By Guest
      In 1938, a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses was arrested after asking people on a New Haven, Conn., street if they would listen to the religious records. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1940 in favor of the Witnesses, holding that the state had violated their freedom of religion. #VinylRecordDay En 1938, una familia de testigos de Jehová fue arrestada después de preguntar a la gente en un nuevo refugio, conn., calle si se los registros religiosos. El Tribunal Supremo de ee. uu. Dictaminó en 1940 a favor de los testigos, sosteniendo que el estado había violado su libertad de religión. #Vinylrecordday
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Mingachevir: Challenge to illegal police raid fails
      On 18 September 2018, Judge Elchin Huseynov of Sheki Appeal Court rejected a civil case brought by four Jehovah’s Witnesses, Eldar Aliyev, Maryam Aliyeva, Elchin Bakirov and Bahruz Kerimov, against an illegal police raid on a worship meeting, according to the decision seen by Forum 18.

      Police had raided a Jehovah’s Witness meeting in Aliyev’s home in the north-western town of Mingachevir on 9 January 2016. Mingachevir City Court then fined Aliyev 1,500 Manats in March 2016, and Sheki Appeal Court upheld the fine the following month.

      The four lodged a civil suit to Mingachevir City Court, seeking redress for the police’s illegal entry into Aliyev’s home without a court order or search warrant, their “detention, verbal insults and humiliation”, and seizure of personal literature. But the court rejected the suit on 25 May 2018.
      https://www.eurasiareview.com/17062019-azerbaijan-appeals-fail-against-illegal-raids-fines/
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      ChinaAid reports that 18 individuals have been indicted in Xinjiang, 17 for “using an evil religion organization” to “incite the obstruction of law enforcement,” and one of them for “obstructing law enforcement by organizing and using an evil religious organization.” ChinaAid also provides the names of all these indicted and further details.
      The formulae mentioned by ChinaAid correspond to Art. 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code, which establishes jail penalties of three to seven years “or more” for  “using a xie jiao” (sometimes translated as “evil cult” and in ChinaAid article as “evil religious organization,” while scholars point out that “heterodox teachings” would be a better translation). The formula “using a xie jiao for obstructing the law enforcement” (or “inciting the obstruction of law enforcement”) is also customary.
      While Chinese propaganda abroad insists that Art. 300 is only enforced against members of groups the CCP labels as xie jiao, including Falun Gong and The Church of Almighty God, who commit serious crimes, this case confirms once again that this interpretation is false. “Using a xie jiao for obstructing law enforcement” is a rhetoric formula used as a synonymous for “being active in an illegal religious organization.” In fact, the 18 Jehovah’s Witnesses were accused of “spreading superstition and heresy” and of inciting people not to join the CCP (Witnesses are forbidden by their religion from joining any political organization), not of any other crime. It is clear that Art. 300 is enforced against those who gather to profess, or spread, a banned faith, a typical “crime of conscience.” No other crime is required.
      It is the first time that Art. 300 is applied for a general crackdown against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. As far as Bitter Winter knows, they are not included in the current list of the xie jiao, yet the indictment in Xinjiang implies that they are regarded as a xie jiao. In fact, we have learned that recently pastors of the Three-Self Church insisted that the list of the xie jiao should be expanded, including new groups they regard as “heretic” (and perhaps as too successful in converting members of the same Three-Self Church).
      Read more: https://bitterwinter.org/persecution-against-jehovahs-witnesses-escalates-in-china/

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

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

      https://jw-russia.org/en/news/19061115-921.html
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      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.
      https://belsat.eu/en/news/mass-arrests-of-jehovahs-witnesses-in-dagestan/
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Khujand court has extended Jehovah's Witness pensioner Shamil Khakimov's pre-trial detention for another month. His "crime", for which he was arrested in February, seems to be that he is thought to lead Khujand's Jehovah's Witness community. Against international human rights standards, he is not allowed to read his Bible.
      A court in the northern city of Khujand has again extended the pre-trial detention of 68-year-old Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience Shamil Khakimov until 26 June. He was arrested in February and is being investigated on criminal charges of allegedly "inciting religious hatred", which carry a jail term of between five and ten years. But his real "crime" seems to be that the regime thinks he leads Khujand's Jehovah's Witness community.
       
      Khujand City Court
      Radioi Ozodi (RFE/RL)
      Khakimov, a widower, suffers from high blood pressure and underwent major leg surgery not long before his February arrest.

      The court can legally continue extending Khakimov's pre-trial detention for up to one year – to 26 February 2020 – and an April extension of the detention took place illegally without his lawyer being informed (see below).

      Against international human rights standards, prisoner of conscience Khakimov is not being allowed the read his Bible (see below).

      In 2016 seven imam-hatyps of state-controlled cathedral mosques in Sogd Region were jailed, apparently for being educated abroad and being devout Muslims, and their sentences are due to expire between March and August 2019. But the regime is refusing to say when they will be released (see below).

      However, relatives of alleged Salafi Muslim Mukhtadi Abdulkodyrov, arrested in December 2018, said a Dushanbe court released him on parole in mid-March 2019 (see below).
       
      Pre-trial detention again extended

      Jehovah's Witness Shamil Rasulovich Khakimov (born 30 August 1950), a retired widower, arrested on 26 February and then put in pre-trial detention, has had his detention extended twice.

      Khujand City Court in the northern Sogd Region extended his detention for one month on 23 April, and then for a further month on 24 May. His pre-trial detention will now last until 26 June, Jehovah's Witnesses who wish to remain anonymous told Forum 18 on 27 May.

      They pointed out that the authorities can legally continue extending the pre-trial detention for up to one year – to 26 February 2020.

      Judge Abruniso Mirasilzoda of Khujand City Court, who ordered the initial pre-trial detention, refused to explain the repeated extensions of the detention to Forum 18 on 29 May.
       
      "Inciting religious hatred", no arrests or prosecution of torturers

      Khakimov is being investigated for allegedly "inciting religious hatred", but his real "crime" appears to be that police think he leads Khujand's Jehovah's Witness community.

      Prisoner of conscience Khakimov's arrest came after police found his phone number on the phones of two female Jehovah's Witnesses they arrested for sharing their beliefs on the street. Investigator Nekruz Ibrokhimzoda of the Sogd Regional Police Organised Crime Department called Khakimov's number as well as other numbers on the phones, and then arrested Khakimov.

      Prisoner of conscience Khakimov's arrest followed raids and interrogations, in some cases involving torture, against Jehovah's Witnesses in Sogd Region and other religious communities nationwide.

      Despite Tajikistan's binding international obligations under the United Nations (UN) Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, no arrests or prosecutions appear to have taken place against officials who tortured Jehovah's Witnesses.
       
      Detention extended without lawyer, appeal refused

      On 23 April Khujand City Court extended Khakimov's pre-trial detention until 26 May, but illegally his lawyer was not informed of the court hearing. The detention was extended at the request of Investigator Nosirkhuja Dodokhonzoda of Sogd Regional Prosecutor's Office, who is now leading the case.

      Police had without explanation and illegally refused to allow a defence lawyer to be present during Khakimov's initial February interrogation. 

      On 29 April Sogd Regional Court rejected an appeal brought by Jehovah's Witnesses against the extension of Khakimov's pre-trial detention.

      Madina Mukumzoda, head of Khujand City Court's Chancellery, refused on 29 May to discuss the case with Forum 18.
       
      Prisoner of conscience Khakimov is being held under Criminal Code Article 189, Part 2 ("Inciting national, racial, local or religious hatred or dissension, humiliation of national dignity, as well as propaganda of the superiority of citizens based on their religion, national, racial, or local origin, if committed in public or using the mass media"). If tried and convicted he could be jailed for between five and 10 years, with an additional ban on specified activity.

      Prisoner of conscience Khakimov is currently held in Khujand's Investigation Prison:

      Ya/S 9/2 Investigation Prison
      Khujand
      Sogd Region
       
      No Bible reading allowed

      Khakimov's lawyer can visit him in prison. "His health is comparatively good, and he is being given medicines," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 on 4 June. "He can pray but he is not permitted to read his Bible."

      The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (known as the Mandela Rules - A/C.3/70/L.3) require governments to respect the freedom of religion and belief and other human rights of prisoners.

      "So far as practicable, every prisoner shall be allowed to satisfy the needs of his or her religious life by attending the services provided in the prison and having in his or her possession the books of religious observance and instruction of his or her denomination", Rule 66 notes.

      Prisoner of conscience Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov, who led a Protestant Church in Khujand, was jailed for three years in July 2017 under Criminal Code Article 189, Part 1 for allegedly "singing extremist songs in church and so inciting 'religious hatred'".

      A Tajik Protestant who wishes to remain unnamed for fear of state reprisals told Forum 18 on 27 May that Pastor Kholmatov "was visited in prison recently, and is seemingly doing fine".
       
      Will jailed Sogd Muslims be released?

      In early March 2016, seven imam-hatyps of state-controlled cathedral mosques in Sogd Region were arrested on the initiative of the Regional Prosecutor's Office.

      Sulaymon Boltuyev was Imam of the cathedral Mosque in Guliston (former Kayrakkum), Maksud Urunov Imam of the cathedral Mosque in Kanibadam, and Abdujamil Yusufi of the cathedral Mosque in Bobojon Gofurov District. The other arrested imams were: Abbos Abdurakhmanov, Imam Urunov's deputy at the Kanibadam Cathedral Mosque; Khuseyn Tukhtayev, another imam-hatyp from Kanibadam's Cathedral Mosque; Hamzaali Sultanov of Khujand's Takvo Mosque; and Makhdi Boltayev (an Uzbek citizen) of Isfara's Navgilem Mosque.

      Bobojon Gofurov District Court sentenced all seven of the imams in June 2016 to between three years and three years and four months' imprisonment in strict regime labour camps.

      The jailings appear to have been part of a State Committee for Religious Affairs and Regulation of Traditions, Ceremonies and Rituals (SCRA) campaign to identify and fire all foreign-educated imams. Many other Muslims, including imams, were jailed at the same time for similar reasons.

      The seven imams' sentences are due to expire between March and August 2019, but officials are refusing to say whether they will be released. 

      An official who refused to give his name, but is an assistant to Lieutenant-General Mansurjon Umarov, Head of the Justice Ministry's Chief Directorate of Enforcement of Criminal Punishments, told Forum 18 on 29 May 2019 that the seven imams were prosecuted under Criminal Code Article 307-3, Part 2, which punishes "participation in the activity of political parties, social or religious organisations, or other organisations, liquidated or banned by a court for extremist activity".

      The official added that "those who are punished under such charges cannot be amnestied. They must serve their sentence till the end". However, he refused to say when the imams will be released, or if any have already been released.

      Lieutenant-General Umarov's assistant asked Forum 18 to call back the next day, 30 May, but has not answered his phone then or subsequently.
       
      2017 Sogd arrests, harsher jail sentences

      The jailing of the seven imams seems to have been the beginning of a wave of jailings in Sogd. In September 2017 42-year old Imam Ilkhomiddin Abdulloyev of the Chorrukh-Dorun Mosque in a suburb of Guliston and four members of the Mosque community, one of whom is named Kasymov, were arrested. In November 2017 all were jailed for five and half years.

      Human rights defender Faiziniso Vakhidova told Forum 18 in December 2017 that Imam Abdulloyev is "not an extremist at all, but a very peaceful believer" and a disciple of Imam Boltuyev who was imprisoned earlier under similar "extremism" charges. "Imam Abdulloyev may have been arrested for that reason", human rights defender Vakhidova commented.

      Also jailed in Sogd Region between August and December 2017 were other male Muslim prisoners of conscience, including a well-known heart surgeon. All were accused of being adherents of Salafi Islam, a movement banned since 2009.

      None of those jailed appears to have called for or committed any violation of the human rights of others, and officials refused to explain what exactly they had done wrong. But it appears that their "crime" was to be identified by regime officials as being devout Muslims. All received prison terms of at least five years.
       
      Alleged Salafi released on parole with restrictions
       
      Ismoili Somoni District Court, Dushanbe
      Radioi Ozodi (RFE/RL)
      About three months after his arrest, Dushanbe's Ismoili Somoni District Court handed alleged Salafi Muslim Mukhtadi Abdulkodyrov a term under probation. He was released on parole in mid-March, his relatives told Radio Free Europe (RFE) on 23 March. Tajikistan has banned Salafi Islam since 2009 as "extremist".

      Abdulkodyrov must not change his permanent place of residence, work, or education without notifying the authorities, the Court told RFE. If he does not follow these restrictions he can be taken back into custody.

      The National Security Committee (NSC) secret police arrested Abdulkodyrov on 1 December 2018 after his return from working in Saudi Arabia, despite writing a letter of "repentance" at the request of officials before his return.

      Prosecutors originally investigated Abdulkodyrov under Criminal Code Article 307, Part 2 ("organising the activity of an extremist organisation"). However, in January 2019 this was changed to a charge under Article 189, Part 1 ("Inciting national, racial, local or religious hatred or dissension, humiliation of national dignity, as well as propaganda of the superiority of citizens based on their religion, national, racial, or local origin, if committed in public or using the mass media"). This carries a maximum jail term of five years.

      An Ismoili Somoni District Court Chancellery official (who refused to give his name) on 29 May 2019 still refused to discuss Abdulkodyrov's punishment and referred Forum 18 to Court Chair Gayrat Sanginzoda. He did not answer his phone on either 29 or 30 May. Nor did Lieutenant-General Mansurjon Umarov, head of the Justice Ministry's Chief Directorate of Enforcement of Criminal Punishments, on 30 May. (END)
      http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2484
    • 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/
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