JW Russia: ‘Persecuted’ Jehovah’s Witness, 89, faces prison on religious extremism charges in RussiaBy Isabella
An 89-year-old former maths teacher faces up to ten years in a Russian prison on charges of religious extremism in a crackdown on Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Russia outlawed the evangelical Christian group in 2017, categorising it as extremist and on a par with Islamic State and neo-Nazi movements.
Nine Jehovah’s Witnesses were jailed last year after being arrested while leading or organising prayer meetings.
They were jailed for between two and six years. More than 30 others have spent at least six months in detention.
Rimma Vashchenko, born in 1930, is one of eight other residents of Nevinnomyssk, a city in south Russia, who were charged with extremism after raids on Bible study groups by armed police. Four are in their seventies.
Ms Vashchenko, who has…
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A court in the Russian Far East on Tuesday handed a six-year suspended jail sentence to a Jehovah’s Witness, Grigoriy Bubnov, after finding him guilty of extremist activity, a spokesman for the religious group said.
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.
Russia’s Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that the group was an “extremist” organization and ordered it to disband, a decision that was followed by a crackdown which has seen dozens of adherents detained and hundreds hit with criminal charges.
Read more: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-politics-religion/russian-jehovahs-witness-gets-suspended-sentence-for-extremism-spokesman-idUSKBN1ZK0MC
JW Russia: Mass Detentions in Kazan: Department for Combating Organized Crime Finds Out Why People Aged 9 to 80 Read the BibleBy Isabella
On the morning of January 19, 2020, in Kazan, law enforcement officers detained about 15 believers, including two children and two women over the age of 80. All of them were interrogated using psychological pressure about who forces them to read the Bible. Some believers have been searched and detained.
JW Russia:Court of Appeal Upholds Criminal Sentence for Aleksey Metsger for Believing in Jehovah GodBy Isabella
On January 13, 2020, the Perm Regional Court upheld the decision of a lower court to punish Aleksey Metsger for practicing his religion. He will be fined 350,000 rubles.
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.
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.
“FSB Officers Were Told Jehovah's Witnesses Were Enemies.” Read Last Word of Valeriy Moskalenko at CourtBy 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.
JW Russia:In Primorsky Territory, Sergey Sergeyev and Yuriy Belosludtsev Moved from Jail to House ArrestBy 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.
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
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.
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)
JW Russia:Another Petrozavodsk Resident Accused of Extremism and Loses Job Due to Persecution for FaithBy 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.”
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
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).
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.
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.
JW Eritrea:THESE JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES HAVE BEEN IMPRISONED IN ERITREA FOR THE PAST 25 YEARS WITHOUT TRIALBy 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
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/
JW Russia:In Saratov, Prosecution Requested Six and Seven Years of Jail for 6 Jehovah’s Witnesses. Verdict Will Be Known ShortlyBy 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
JW Eritrea:'It was very painful to lose such a friend': Jehovah's Witnesses imprisoned in Eritrea mark 25 years of captivity and tortureBy 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
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
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.
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
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.
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/
German Commissioner for Global Freedom of Religion Voices Concern Over Jehovah's Witnesses in RussiaBy 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.”
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.
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.
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
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)
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/
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.
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