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JW TAJIKISTAN: Jailed, awaiting trial on "incitement" charges

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Despite recent surgery, retired widower, Jehovah's Witness Shamil Khakimov, is in pre-trial detention in Khujand under criminal investigation for "inciting religious hatred". If tried and convicted he faces five to ten years' imprisonment. His arrest followed widespread raids, interrogations and torture of local Jehovah's Witnesses.

On 28 February, two days after his arrest, a court in the northern city of Khujand ordered that 68-year old Jehovah's Witness Shamil Khakimov be held in pre-trial detention for up to two months. Prosecutors are preparing a criminal case against him on charges of "inciting religious hatred", charges he rejects. Khakimov, who suffers from high blood pressure and recently underwent a leg operation, faces between five and ten years' imprisonment if eventually tried and convicted.

Khakimov is currently held at Khujand's Investigation Prison.


Khujand Investigation Prison
Google/DigitalGlobe
Judge Abruniso Mirasilzoda, who acceded to the Prosecutor's Office request to put Khakimov in pre-trial detention despite his medical condition, refused to explain her decision to Forum 18 (see below).

A panel of three judges at Sogd Regional Court upheld Khakimov's pre-trial detention on 12 March. None of the judges were prepared to discuss with Forum 18 why they approved the detention of the 68-year-old, given his serious state of health (see below).

Forum 18 was unable to reach Nosirkhuja Dodokhonzoda, Investigator of serious crimes at Sogd Regional Prosecutor's Office, who is leading the criminal case against Khakimov (see below).

Police opened the case against Khakimov after widespread raids in January and February on homes and police interrogations of Jehovah's Witnesses across the northern Sogd Region. Some of the interrogations involved torture.

Organised Crime Police seized Khakimov's Bible and other religious literature during a raid on his home after they interrogated him (see below).

After the raids and interrogations, so far none of the Jehovah's Witnesses were given any punishments or faced any charges except for Khakimov. "The authorities probably want to punish a Jehovah's Witness more seriously in order for this to be a show case, a lesson for the rest of the Jehovah's Witnesses," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 on 19 March. "This may be why Khakimov was singled out."

Jehovah's Witnesses in Khujand are still being regularly summoned and questioned by the Organised Crime Police, Jehovah's Witnesses complained to Forum 18. The Police summon individuals for interrogation "without written notifications".

Organised Crime Police prepare Khakimov's arrest

Trouble began for Jehovah's Witness Shamil Rasulovich Khakimov (born 30 August 1950), a retired widower, after police stopped two Jehovah's Witnesses on the street in Khujand in early January for sharing their beliefs with a passer-by.

"The Police seized the phones of the two women and called the numbers in the phone, and this is how they found Khakimov," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. "The authorities allege that he is the leader of Jehovah's Witnesses in Khujand."

On the evening of 28 January, Khakimov received a call from an unknown person. "The caller requested him to leave his flat and come out onto the street. It was dark so he hesitated, but the calls kept coming," Jehovah's Witnesses said. "When he decided to come outside, there was no one on the street."

Later the caller identified himself as Nekruz Ibrokhimzoda from the Organised Crime Police of Sogd Region.

The next day, 29 January, Organised Crime Police officers summoned some of Khakimov's friends (who are not Jehovah's Witnesses) and fellow believers, and questioned them about him.

At lunch time on 1 February, three days after this, the Organised Crime Police's Khujand office summoned Khakimov, where officers searched him on arrival. Lieutenant Colonel Sukhrob Rustamzoda then interrogated him, including about his personal history, how he became a Jehovah's Witness, and the structure of the organisation.

"During the interrogation, officers refused to allow Khakimov to use the services of a defence lawyer," Jehovah's Witnesses complained.

Investigator Rustamzoda refused to comment on the case. "I cannot discuss it with you over the phone," he told Forum 18 on 19 March. "You need to talk to Sogd Regional Prosecutor's Office. They are investigating the case now." When Forum 18 insisted, asking why Police opened a case against Khakimov and why he was refused a defence lawyer to participate during his interrogation, Rustamzoda put the phone down.

Officers seize Khakimov's property

After the interrogation, the Organised Crime Police brought Khakimov to his flat in Khujand. Officers seized his tablet device, laptop computer, his Bible and several religious books and brochures, as well as his passport. Officers did not give him a copy of the seizure record, Jehovah's Witnesses said.

The Police "detained him overall for eight hours the same day," Jehovah's Witnesses complained to Forum 18. "He had not fully recovered after the thrombophlebitis surgery on his legs and his bandages needed to be changed."

Moreover, Khakimov "could not receive money transfers to continue his necessary medical treatment, since officers seized his passport".

Prosecutor's Office ignores complaints, opens case

On 3 February, Khakimov filed a complaint with the Regional Prosecutor's Office against the actions of the Organised Crime Police officers. "No answer has been received to this day," Jehovah's Witnesses complained to Forum 18.

"Instead at around 9 am on 7 February, four days after his complaint, the Organised Crime Police officers once again arrived at Khakimov's home. They threatened him to open the door," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. "As the Police officers refused to provide the official summons, he decided not to open the door." 

During the same day, the Police "repeatedly called Khakimov demanding him to come to the police station."

Khakimov filed another complaint to the Regional Prosecutor's Office on 7 February against the actions of the Organised Crime Police. "At the Prosecutor's Office he was asked to write an additional statement on his faith and religious activity." The Prosecutor's Office, however, "refused to give him a note that he was asked to write a statement and that it had received his complaint."

The Prosecutor's Office has "not responded to this complaint to this day either".

Arrest, pre-trial detention

On 26 February, 19 days after his second complaint, Police arrested Khakimov and put him in custody "despite his advanced age and poor health".

The following day, on 27 February, the Organised Crime Police went to Khakimov's flat again. "Without showing identification documents - in the absence of Khakimov and the presence of his roommate - seized Khakimov's international passport without drawing up a record of it," Jehovah's Witnesses said.

On 28 February, at the request of the Sogd Regional Prosecutor's Office, Judge Abruniso Mirasilzoda of Khujand City Court ordered that Khakimov be held in pre-trial detention. He is being held in the Investigation Prison in Khujand.

Judge Mirasilzoda told Forum 18 from the court on 19 March that "his custody may last up two months while the investigation proceeds, and if need be his arrest can be prolonged." She refused to explain why Khakimov needs to be held in custody. Asked why he cannot be at home while his case is being investigated, she told Forum 18: "I gave my decision, and it entered into force."

Asked why she did not take into account that Khakimov is an old man who recently underwent an operation on his leg, Judge Mirasilzoda replied: "His lawyer informed us about this orally, but did not present documents." Asked whether had Khakimov had the documents, she would not have ordered the pre-trial detention, she responded: "I do not want to discuss my decision further."

Jehovah's Witnesses say the court was fully aware of Khakimov's medical condition. "On 28 February our lawyer did not yet have the documents from the doctors on Khakimov's operation, so they told Judge Mirasilzoda that Khakimov can open the bandage on his leg and show the wound, as well as producing the documents later. But she went ahead with her decision."

Khakimov's address in Investigation Prison:

Ya/S 9/2 Investigation Prison
Khujand
Sogd Region
Tajikistan

Why pre-trial detention?

Jehovah's Witnesses appealed against the 28 February decision to place Khakimov in pre-trial detention. They presented in court documentation on his operation and health condition. But on 12 March, a panel of three judges at Sogd Regional Court, Ismoil Rakhmatzoda, Maftuna Rakhmatillozoda and Khotamsho Sattorzoda, upheld Khakimov's pre-trial detention.

Asked on 20 March why the Court upheld the pre-trial detention of Khakimov, an ailing old man, Makhrambek Jumazoda, Secretary of Judge Rakhmatzoda, took down the question and Forum 18's name. Then, after consulting with an official in Judge Rakhmatzoda's office, claimed to Forum 18 that the Judge is "busy in a meeting". He then refused to talk further.

Judge Rakhmatillozoda on 20 March also refused to explain their decision. Asked why the Court did not take into account the official records of Khakimov's condition and upheld his pre-trial detention, she responded: "I just came into my office. Can you call back in 15 minutes?" Called back later, she told Forum 18 "I cannot talk to you," and put the phone down.

Judge Sattorzoda was adamant that the Court "correctly took the decision to put Khakimov in custody". Reminded that Khakimov presented to the Court the documents confirming his medical condition and that he is an old man, Sattorzoda repeated his previous response: "We took the decision correctly." He refused to explain the decision to Forum 18 and to answer further questions.

Inciting hatred?

Nosirkhuja Dodokhonzoda, Investigator of serious crimes at Sogd Regional Prosecutor's Office, is leading the case against Khakimov. On 7 March, one week after Khakimov's arrest, Dodokhonzoda officially informed him of the charges against him.

Dodokhonzoda is investigating Khakimov 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" when performed repeatedly, by a group or by an individual using their official position). Punishment is imprisonment of between five and ten years, with the possibility also of a five-year ban on specified activity.

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

Asked why the Prosecutor's Office asked for Khakimov's pre-trial detention, and why it did not respond to Khakimov complaints on the Police illegal actions, the official (who did not give his name) who on 19 March answered the phone of Khobibullo Vokhidov, Prosecutor of Sogd Region, took down Forum 18's name and asked it to wait on the line. Moments later, he told Forum 18 that "Prosecutor Vokhidov is busy; call back in an hour or so."

Called back later, the Prosecutor's phone numbers were all switched to a fax machine.

Prosecutor's Office Investigator Dodokhonzoda did not answer his phones on 20 March.

Health concerns

Jehovah's Witnesses express concern over Khakimov's health. "He recently had an operation on the veins in his legs and suffers from high blood pressure," they told Forum 18 on 19 March. "At the moment he is still suffering from high blood pressure, and the doctors have told him not to stand for too long because of the operation."

Jehovah's Witnesses added that although Khakimov is "doing well", he still feels pain in his leg after the surgery. "Our lawyer talked to the prison doctor and he said that he will make sure that Shamil Khakimov would not have to stand up every time officers enter the cell for checking."

Earlier raids, interrogations

The Organised Crime Police Department of Sogd Region interrogated about 17 Jehovah's Witnesses for periods of up to 14 hours in January and February across the northern Sogd Region, including in Khujand and Konibodom. Police also confiscated mobile phones, personal computers or tablets, and internal passports from those they interrogated.

One female Jehovah's Witness was interrogated two days running for 14 hours. Because of the extreme stress imposed on her, she suffered a stroke, leaving her unable to walk or speak. She was then taken to hospital.

Jehovah's Witnesses lodged a formal complaint about the police actions and torture to Sogd Regional Prosecutor's Office. "But it has taken no action and given no response to this day," Jehovah's Witnesses complained to Forum 18.

"After the female Witness complained to President Emomali Rahmon, the General Prosecutor's Office informed her in early February in writing that it is investigating the complaint," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. "However, she has not been informed on the course or the results of the investigation to this day."

Asked on 20 March about the investigation of this case and Khakimov's case, officials at the General Prosecutor's Office reception (who did not give their names) referred Forum 18 to its international relations section's Makhmudzoda and Karimzoda (first names were not given). The officials' phones went unanswered the same day. Called back, the reception officials refused to put Forum 18 through to any other officials to discuss the cases. (END)

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      1) Baurzhan Beisembai; Sunni Muslim; born 29 March 1982; arrested 1 August 2016; sentenced 10 October 2016 Oskemen City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1 and Part 2; two and a half years' imprisonment in general regime labour camp, plus five year ban on exercise of religious freedom. Expected end of post-prison ban: February 2024.

      2) Zhumabai Shaikhyuly Nurpeyis; Sunni Muslim; born 23 July 1961; arrested November 2016; sentenced 28 June 2017 Atyrau City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Parts 1 and 2; appeal rejected 29 August 2017 Atyrau Regional Court; 2 year prison term, plus 2 or 3 year post-prison ban on exercise of religious freedom. Expected end of post-prison ban: November 2020 or November 2021.

      3) Nurlan Amangeldyevich Ibrayev; Sunni Muslim; born 24 March 1977; arrested November 2016; sentenced 28 June 2017 Atyrau City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Parts 1 and 2; appeal rejected 29 August 2017 Atyrau Regional Court; 2 year prison term, plus 2 or 3 year post-prison ban on exercise of religious freedom, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected end of post-prison ban: November 2020 or November 2021.

      4) Kanat Serikovich Shaigozhanov; Sunni Muslim; born 30 November 1984; arrested November 2016; sentenced 28 June 2017 Atyrau City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Parts 1 and 2; appeal rejected 29 August 2017 Atyrau Regional Court; 2 year prison term, plus 2 or 3 year post-prison ban on exercise of religious freedom, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected end of post-prison ban: November 2020 or November 2021.

      5) Nuralim Archiyevich Tyupeyev; Sunni Muslim; born 13 November 1962; arrested November 2016; sentenced 28 June 2017 Atyrau City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Parts 1 and 2; appeal rejected 29 August 2017 Atyrau Regional Court; 2 year prison term, plus 2 or 3 year post-prison ban on exercise of religious freedom, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected end of post-prison ban: November 2020 or November 2021.

      6) Ermek Tursynbayevich Akhmetov; Sunni Muslim; born 18 March 1964; arrested November 2016; sentenced 28 June 2017 Atyrau City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Parts 1 and 2; appeal rejected 29 August 2017 Atyrau Regional Court; 2 year prison term, plus 2 or 3 year post-prison ban on exercise of religious freedom, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected end of post-prison ban: November 2020 or November 2021.

      7) Furkhat Farkhadovich Abatayev; Sunni Muslim; born 27 January 1965; arrested at end of trial; sentenced 4 April 2017 Sairam District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; no appeal; 1 year imprisonment, plus two-year post-prison ban on ban on exercise of religious freedom, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected end of post-prison ban: April 2020.

      😎 Abdivasit Abdikakharovich Abdirazakov; Sunni Muslim; born 28 August 1965; arrested at end of trial; sentenced 4 April 2017 Sairam District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; no appeal; 1 year imprisonment, plus two-year post-prison ban on ban on exercise of religious freedom, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected end of post-prison ban: April 2020.

      9) Murodzhon Abdivakhabovich Abdullayev; Sunni Muslim; born 21 January 1969; arrested at end of trial; sentenced 4 April 2017 Sairam District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; no appeal; 1 year imprisonment, plus two-year post-prison ban on ban on exercise of religious freedom, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected end of post-prison ban: April 2020.

      10) Zhenisbek Erakhmetovich Manbetov; Sunni Muslim; born 16 July 1983; arrested at end of trial; sentenced 4 April 2017 Sairam District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; no appeal; 1 year imprisonment, plus two-year post-prison ban on ban on exercise of religious freedom, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected end of post-prison ban: April 2020.

      11) Meirambek Amalbekuli Sarymsak; Sunni Muslim; born 8 March 1965; arrested at end of trial; sentenced 4 April 2017 Sairam District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; no appeal; 1 year imprisonment, plus two-year post-prison ban on ban on exercise of religious freedom, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected end of post-prison ban: April 2020.

      12) Estai Kanatbekovich Dzhakayev; Sunni Muslim; born 17 May 1978; arrested at end of trial; sentenced 11 March 2016 Alakol District Court, Almaty Region; Criminal Code Article 405, Parts 1 and 2; no appeal; 3 years' imprisonment, plus post-prison ban on ban on exercise of religious freedom of unknown duration, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected end of post-prison ban: unknown.
        Bank accounts still blocked

      The 29 individuals known to have their bank accounts still blocked although they have completed their sentences (and possibly an additional post-jailing ban on specific activity). It is possible some of these are still serving post-jailing bans.

      1) Abdumazhit Kopurovich Abdullayev; Sunni Muslim; born 21 January 1968; arrested 8 July 2016; sentenced 28 December 2016 Almaty Region's Zhambyl District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Parts 1 and 2; appeal rejected 28 February 2017; 2 and a half years' prison. Bank accounts still blocked.

      2) Serzhan Dalelkhanovich Akhmetov; Sunni Muslim; born 20 June 1982; arrested at end of trial; sentenced 10 October 2016 Oskemen City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; one year's imprisonment in a work camp. Bank accounts still blocked.

      3) Darkhan Baurzhanovich Amrenev; Sunni Muslim; born 29 December 1988; sentenced 10 October 2016 Oskemen City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; one year of restricted freedom. Bank accounts still blocked.

      4) Orazbek Kabdrashovich Apakashev; Sunni Muslim; born 3 November 1971; arrested 22 February 2015; sentenced 29 September 2015 Temirtau City Court, Karaganda Region; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1; 3 years' imprisonment. Bank accounts still blocked.

      5) Asimtulla Rakhimtullayevich Baiturynov; Sunni Muslim; born 1 September 1971; arrested 8 July 2016; sentenced 28 December 2016 Almaty Region's Zhambyl District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Parts 1 and 2; appeal rejected 28 February 2017; 1 and a half years' prison. Bank accounts still blocked.

      6) Baurzhan Beisembai; Sunni Muslim; born 29 March 1982; arrested 1 August 2016; sentenced 10 October 2016 Oskemen Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1 and Part 2; 2 and a half years' imprisonment. Bank accounts still blocked.

      7) Parkhat Abdilgafurovich Gafurov; Sunni Muslim; born 15 November 1977; arrested 8 July 2016; sentenced 28 December 2016 Almaty Region's Zhambyl District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Parts 1 and 2; appeal rejected 28 February 2017; 2 years' prison. Bank accounts still blocked.

      😎 Kublandy Urazbayevich Isatayev; Sunni Muslim; born 23 February 1977; arrested at end of trial; sentenced 6 October 2016 Aktobe Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; no appeal; 1 year's imprisonment, to be served in a work camp. Bank accounts still blocked.

      9) Yklas Kairullinovich Kabduakasov; Seventh-day Adventist; born 19 February 1961; Seventh-day Adventist; Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1; sentenced 28 December 2015 Astana City Court; two years' imprisonment, plus book destruction. Bank accounts still blocked.

      10) Rauan Kuanganovich Karagyzov; Sunni Muslim; born 21 March 1986; arrested at end of trial; sentenced 10 October 2016 Oskemen City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; one and a half years' imprisonment in a general regime labour camp. Bank accounts still blocked.

      11) Khalambakhi Khalym; born 12 August 1984; Sunni Muslim; arrested 23 September 2015; sentenced 18 February 2016 Astana's Saryarka District Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2, Article 174, Part 1; 2 and a half years' imprisonment. Bank accounts still blocked.

      12) Oralgazhi Omarkhanovich Koshtybayev; Sunni Muslim; born 2 October 1966; arrested 8 July 2016; sentenced 28 December 2016 Almaty Region's Zhambyl District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Parts 1 and 2; appeal rejected 28 February 2017; 1 and a half years' prison. Bank accounts still blocked.

      13) Bolatbek Kambarovich Kozhageldinov; Sunni Muslim; born 30 June 1977; arrested 23 September 2015; sentenced 18 February 2016 Astana's Saryarka District Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1; 2 years' imprisonment. Bank accounts still blocked.

      14) Darkhan Bekovich Kunapyanov; Sunni Muslim; born 21 August 1978; sentenced 10 October 2016 Oskemen City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; 1 year of restricted freedom. Bank accounts still blocked.

      15) Rustam Imenzhanovich Musayev; Sunni Muslim; born 17 April 1985; arrested 4 April 2016; sentenced 1 June 2016 Karasai District Court; Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1; no appeal; 2 years' imprisonment in general regime labour camp, plus 35,890 Tenge fee. Bank accounts still blocked.

      16) Nurzhan Beisembayevich Nuradilov; Sunni Muslim; born 13 January 1980; arrested 23 September 2015; sentenced 18 February 2016 Astana's Saryarka District Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1; 2 years' imprisonment. Bank accounts still blocked.

      17) Erbolat Kabzakievich Omarbekov; Sunni Muslim; born 10 July 1971; arrested 23 September 2015; sentenced 18 February 2016 Astana's Saryarka District Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1; 2 years' imprisonment. Bank accounts still blocked.

      18) Eldos Mukhametkarimovich Otarbayev; Sunni Muslim; born 15 August 1986; arrested at end of trial; sentenced 10 October 2016 Oskemen City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; one year's imprisonment in a work camp. Bank accounts still blocked.

      19) Bauyrzhan Omirzhanovich Serikov; Sunni Muslim; born 20 November 1977; arrested 7 October 2015; sentenced 28 March 2016 Karaganda's Kazybek Bi District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1; 2 years' imprisonment. Bank accounts still blocked.

      20) Aidin Zulfukarovich Shakentayev; Sunni Muslim; born 15 August 1982; arrested 7 October 2015; sentenced 28 March 2016 Karaganda's Kazybek Bi District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1; 2 and a half years' imprisonment. Bank accounts still blocked.

      21) Murat Askarovich Shopenov; Sunni Muslim; born 15 November 1982; arrested 7 October 2015; sentenced 28 March 2016 Karaganda's Kazybek Bi District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1; 2 years' imprisonment. Bank accounts still blocked.

      22) Ulan Torekhanovich Smagulov; Sunni Muslim; born 25 August 1957; arrested at end of trial; sentenced 10 October 2016 Oskemen City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; one and a half years' imprisonment in general regime labour camp. Bank accounts still blocked.

      23) Vakha Novlievich Surkhayev; Sunni Muslim; born 28 March 1963; arrested at end of trial; sentenced 11 March 2016 Alakol District Court, Almaty Region; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1; 1 year, 3 months' imprisonment. Bank accounts still blocked.

      24) Murat Kazbekovich Takaumov; Sunni Muslim; born 14 November 1984; arrested 18 November 2015; sentenced 2 June 2016 Astana's Saryarka District Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; 9 months' imprisonment. Bank accounts still blocked.

      25) Serik Kairbekovich Tastanbekov; Sunni Muslim; born 4 October 1971; arrested at end of trial; sentenced 10 October 2016 Oskemen City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; one and a half years' imprisonment in general regime labour camp. Bank accounts still blocked.

      26) Duman Dautkanovich Toleukhanov; Sunni Muslim; born 24 October 1975; arrested at end of trial; sentenced 10 October 2016 Oskemen City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; one and a half years' imprisonment in general regime labour camp. Bank accounts still blocked.

      27) Mamurzhan Rashidovich Turashov; Sunni Muslim; born 24 April 1973; arrest date unknown; sentenced 2 December 2014 Sairam District Court, South Kazakhstan Region; Article 337-1, Part 1 of old Criminal Code (equivalent of Article 405 of current Criminal Code); 3 years' imprisonment. Bank accounts still blocked.

      28) Kubaidolla Abishevich Tyulyubayev; Sunni Muslim; born 6 August 1962; arrested 28 September 2015; sentenced 18 February 2016 Astana's Saryarka District Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1; 2 years' imprisonment. Bank accounts still blocked.

      29) Zholbarys Kaipbayevich Zhumanazarov; Sunni Muslim; born 3 August 1959; arrested unknown; sentenced 28 December 2017 Karasai District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; 1 year prison term, plus 56,174 Tenge fee, plus bank accounts blocked. Bank accounts still blocked. (END)

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      HELSINKI, April 17. /TASS/. Finland’s migration service has turned down the vast majority of asylum requests filed by Russian members of Jehovah’s Witnesses (outlawed in Russia), because it sees no real threat for the group’s members in their home country, the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper reported on Wednesday.
      According to the paper’s sources, in 2017-2019 the Finnish authorities have received about 250 asylum requests from members of the religious organization, which Russia outlawed in 2017. To date, 90 of those requests have already been considered and only 10% received a positive response.
      The requests were rejected, because the Finnish authorities “believe that Russia is a safe country” for Jehovah’s Witnesses, Helsingin Sanomat said.
      Jehovah’s Witnesses is an international religious organization that supports offbeat views on the essence of the Christian faith and provides special interpretations of many commonly accepted notions.
      In August 2017, the Russian Justice Ministry included the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization and its 395 local religious branches to the list of organizations that are outlawed nationwide. The Russian Supreme Court satisfied the claim of the Justice Ministry to shut down the organization on April 20, 2017.

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      In a very sad case, a seven-year-old boy from Bulawayo is reported to have lost his leg because his parents are refusing to allow him to have a blood transfusion because of their religious beliefs.
      According to the Sunday News, the 7-year-old (name withheld for ethical reasons) suffered a cancerous tumour on his left leg which saw him being admitted at United Bulawayo Hospitals. Doctors initially prescribed a blood transfusion as part of his treatment but his parents who are staunch Jehovah’s Witnesses refused the transfusion arguing that it was against their religious beliefs.
      Sources from the hospital who spoke to Sunday News said,
      The boy is not producing blood and the wound is not healing. A few weeks ago his leg fell off on its own, as it was rotting and was dry. Right now he is only receiving medicine to assist him to generate blood but it appears to be futile. His parents refused him to undergo a blood transfusion, saying it was against their church doctrine.
      We are not God and neither do we have the ability to see into the future but the boy doesn’t have much time to live.
      The minor’s mother is reported to have mounted guard at his bedside to ensure that the hospital does not go against their wishes.  UBH clinical director Dr Narcisius Dzvanga confirmed the issue telling the Sunday News,
      It is their religion and as a hospital, we respect their wishes. The boy is getting injections to help generate blood but his parents are adamant about getting a blood transfusion. As doctors, we cannot determine much on the boy’s life.
      Update
      An earlier version of this article erroneously said that the parents are staunch Seventh Day Adventists.  We apologise sincerely for this error because the parents are actually members of Jehovah’s Witness.  Again, we would like to unreservedly apologise for the earlier error.

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      The FC Cincinnati stadium site in the West End is growing to the north, increasing its footprint to approximately 16 acres, new plans show.
      The team is in the process of working with the Port Authority, who will own the stadium, to acquire John Street land where the Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall now sits. The new area also includes two properties on the south side of Wade Street, all of which is just north of the currently-approved stadium site.
      The Wade Street properties were thrust into the spotlight last week when residents in one of the buildings complained about being pushed out, including 99-year-old Mary Page. The team has agreed to help Page relocate. 
      Read more: 
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      Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall in the West End on Monday, April 15, 2019. FC Cincinnati is in the process of buying it, which will allow them to expand the stadium site to the north. (Photo: Albert Cesare / The Enquirer)
    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Estonia has banned two “Russia 1” journalists, Elena Erofeeva and Pavel Kostrikov, from entering the Schengen zone for the next five years because of a film about the religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, reported the Estonian Public Broadcasting Corporation, referencing the annual report of the country's security police.
      The report states that the journalists had obtained their visas at the Italian and French embassies. They first went to Finland and then took a ferry to Estonia to begin preparing an item for the program “Vesti” that “mocks and incites hostility towards the activities of this religious organization”.
      According to the Estonian special services division, the journalists had used hidden cameras to videotape the Jehovah's Witnesses community in Kesklinn, Tallinn. The clip was used in a report that included shots of “a similar nature” taken in Finland.
      The Estonian police claimed that Erofeeva and Kostrikov’s activities could be interpreted as discrimination on the basis of religion and could lead to the incitement of hostilities
       

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      More than 70 victims of sexual abuse within the Jehovah's Witnesses have come forward with their stories since the public network aired a documentory about it last week, reports the nonprofit organisation Reclaimed Voices Belgium.
      The documentary brought to light that the organisation had been covering up sexual abuse of minors via an internal 'disciplinary' system for years, concluded Pano. That way, none of the claims were reported to the police. One of the witnesses in the documentary was very straightforward in calling it "a paradise for paedophiles".

      According to CIAOSN, an independent centre set up by Belgium's Department of Justice to study sectarian organisations, there are similar findings in 12 other countries. The report concludes that the issues in all other countries are the same. Due to the strict hierarchy of the organisation, it's very difficult to come forward, reports CIAOSN.

      The elders of the organisation usually don't listen to the victims, or don't help them. They usually tell them to keep their mouths shut, said one of the witnesses. "I was told to keep the abuse to myself. 'We don't want to slander God's name.' I had to trust them to take care of it. They told me to pray some more and everything would be fine."

      Jehovah's Witnesses disapprove of sexual abuse, but they don't have any policies to prevent it or report it to the police. Victims that quit the organisation are ignored completely and lose all social contact. Another issue that returns frequently in CIAOSN's report is that victims have to give their statements about the abuse in the presence of their abusers. If the accused denies involvement, they'll only further the investigation after two other witness statements. In all these 13 countries, there is not one woman involved in the internal disciplinary system.

      "Noteworthy is the number of people that talk about the severe psychological damage that the exclusion by the community brings with it," the statement of Reclaimed Voices Belgium said. "In conversations we've had with victims so far, it seems that the trauma caused by the exclusion that follows when a victim speaks up about the abuse has an even bigger impact than the abuse itself."

      Maïthé Chini
      The Brussels Times

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      On March 26, 2019, FSB investigator Sergey Bosiev charged Artem Gerasimov, who had been previously detained for interrogation during a search of eight houses in Alupka, Gurzuf and Yalta (Crimea), with organizing extremist activities (Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code). Another one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Taras Kuzyo, is also a suspect in this case. Both men were released after being interrogated.
      Read full text in Russian
      Case of Gerasimov and Others in Yalta
      Region: 
      Crimea
      Locality: Yalta
      Case number: 11907350001000041
      Current stage: preliminary investigation (pre-trial proceedings)
      Suspected of: according to the investigation, together with others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as organising the activity of an extremist organisation (with reference to the decision of the Russian Supreme Court on the liquidation of all 396 registered organisations of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
      Article of the Russian Criminal Code: 282.2(1)
      Case initiated: 23 May 2017
      Investigating: Investigative Department of the Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia for the Republic of Crimea

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      After the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses* was considered to be an extremist one, and its activities were banned in Russia by the court, it became more difficult to defend them, rights defenders have stated. According to their version, the residents of Northern Caucasus, who have left the Islam, were especially suffering.
      The "Caucasian Knot" has reported that on April 20, 2017, the SC of Russia satisfied the demand of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to liquidate all the 396 religious organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses* in Russia as extremist.
      Rights defenders have faced the problem of protecting Jehovah's Witnesses* in various fields, including from domestic violence, Svetlana Gannushkina, the chair of the "Civil Assistance" Committee, told at a press conference in Moscow on March 28.
      In the course of the event, Ms Gannushkina told the story of a family living in the Caucasus, in which mother and daughter who had converted from Islam to Jehovah's Witnesses* were persecuted by the Muslim husband and father.
      An application from the mother of the minor daughter arrived in the "Civil Assistance" Committee about three years ago, when Jehovah's Witnesses* had not been labelled as an extremist organization. Then, the situation has worsened after Jehovah's Witnesses* became outlawed – now, rights defenders could not help the family, Ms Gannushkina has explained.
      "If they had converted, say, into Christian Orthodoxy, then, they could well turn to the police. But now they are believers of a banned organization; and we cannot protect them, because they can be accused of meeting their fellow believers, which is fraught with prison," Svetlana Gannushkina has concluded.
      With the help of the "Civil Assistance" Committee, the family managed to leave the Caucasus; now, the mother and daughter live in a shelter – a specialized camp for people who have no place to live, Ms Gannushkina has added.
      * The organization has been recognized as extremist in Russia, its activities are banned by the court

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      In February, a Russian court sentenced a Danish citizen who was a legal resident of Russia to six years in prison for such an extremist offence as organizing other Witnesses to shovel snow from their church’s property.
      A month later, Sergei Skrynnikov, a Russian and allegedly a Jehovah’s Witness, was charged with “participating in an extremist organization,” an offence under Russian law that could earn him up to six years in prison. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been fleeing Russia and seeking asylum in Germany and Finland to escape such harsh sentences.
      In China, state authorities harass Jehovah’s Witnesses and raid their meetings. Authorities also deport foreign Witness missionaries from countries such as South Korea.
      South Korea has only recently dropped a 2003 law prohibiting conscientious objection to fighting in its armed forces, a law that confined young Witness men — as well as other men — to jail.
      All these states violate international laws that protect religious freedom, including the freedoms of unpopular minorities. Article 18, 1 of the 1976 United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protects everyone’s freedom to “have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice” and “to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”
      A long history of persecution
      Jehovah’s Witnesses were among the first groups the Nazis persecuted. There were about 25,000 to 30,000 Witnesses in Germany in 1933. About half of those who did not flee were convicted of various crimes and between 2,000 and 2,500 were sent to concentration camps, where about 1,000 died. About 250 were also executed.
      Some years ago I met a Jehovah’s Witness in the city where I live who told me the Nazis had beheaded his grandfather. Germany’s Jehovah’s Witnesses were not merely passive religious group that refused to adopt the Nazi ideology: they also actively tried to expose Nazi atrocities.
      In the 1960s and ‘70s in Malawi, entire villages of Jehovah’s Witnesses were burned, and many villagers were raped, tortured or murdered as they tried to flee. Their crime was refusal to participate in rituals of loyalty to the newly independent Malawian state and its president, Hastings Banda.
      The Malawi government denied me a visa in the early 1980s when I told its High Commission in Ottawa that I wanted to know what had happened to these Witnesses for research for my book, Human Rights in Commonwealth Africa.
      Many Witnesses in Rwanda, both Tutsi and Hutu, lost their lives during the 1994 genocide, many trying to hide people at risk of being murdered.Even now, Rwandan authorities expel some Witness children from school and have fired some Witness teachers because they refuse to sing the national anthem or participate in religious training.
      Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Canada
      Here in Canada, Jehovah’s Witnesses have not always enjoyed their rights to freedom of religion and expression.
      During the Second World War, Witness children were banned from schools in several locations because they would not salute the flag, sing the national anthem or repeat the pledge of allegiance. A Witness father sued the Hamilton Board of Education on behalf of his two sons, who had been expelled from school in 1940. In 1945, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, saying the Board was required to excuse students from participating in religious exercises to which their parents objected.

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Local and federal authorities are investigating a string of acts of violence against Jehovah’s Witness houses of worship in Washington state ― including multiple suspected arsons.
      The latest attack gutted a Jehovah’s Witness building in the city of Lacey, near Olympia. The fire reportedly broke out . No injuries were reported, but the building was deemed a total loss, .
      The Seattle division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has . 
      BREAKING: A fire has destroyed the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Lacey. This is the SIXTH attack on Kingdom Hall’s in Thurston County since March. Five fires, one shooting.
      — Alex Rozier ()
      The fire in Lacey brings the total number of attacks in Thurston County against Jehovah’s Witness centers, called kingdom halls, to six this year, . In March, arson caused minor damage at kingdom halls in Tumwater and Olympia. Four months later, a blaze worship space. In August investigators discovered a fake bomb at a kingdom hall in Yelm, . The incident was determined to be an attempted arson.
      In May someone shot about 35 rifle rounds into the Yelm center, causing more than $10,000 in property damage, .
      Jason Chudy, a spokesperson for the ATF’s Seattle field division, told HuffPost that the organization believes all the incidents could be related. The attacks were probably “meant to send a message,” he said. 
      “We believe that the suspect or suspects has or have a grievance related to the Jehovah’s Witness community, or about another issue they think is important,” he wrote in an email. “Before these fires, the person or persons involved are likely to have shared these strong feelings with others through comments and conversation.”
      Chudy said the ATF also believes that the suspect or suspects may have exhibited changes in behavior in the hours, days, weeks or months since the fires, including unexplained injuries, changes in normal routines and dramatic and unexplained altering of physical appearance.
      The ATF is investigating the incidents, along with Thurston County police. Investigators are offering $36,000 in combined rewards for information that leads to a suspect’s capture. 
      During a press conference on Friday, Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza urged the public to call in with tips.
      “It makes you feel really ill,” . “How frustrating is it that people who find a solemn place of worship, and now it’s being destroyed?”
      Dan Woollett, a member of the kingdom hall in Lacey,  that the important thing is that congregants are safe.
      “It’s just a building ― buildings can be replaced,” he said. “Things can be redone. So we just move ahead with the ministry that we have that we’re involved with.” 

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      In February, a Russian court sentenced a Danish citizen who was a legal resident of Russia to six years in prison for such an extremist offence as organizing other Witnesses to shovel snow from their church’s property.
      A month later, Sergei Skrynnikov, a Russian and allegedly a Jehovah’s Witness, was charged with “participating in an extremist organization,” an offence under Russian law that could earn him up to six years in prison. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been fleeing Russia and seeking asylum in Germany and Finland to escape such harsh sentences.
      In China, state authorities harass Jehovah’s Witnesses and raid their meetings. Authorities also deport foreign Witness missionaries from countries such as South Korea.
      South Korea has only recently dropped a 2003 law prohibiting conscientious objection to fighting in its armed forces, a law that confined young Witness men — as well as other men — to jail.
      All these states violate international laws that protect religious freedom, including the freedoms of unpopular minorities. Article 18, 1 of the 1976 United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protects everyone’s freedom to “have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice” and “to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”
      A long history of persecution
      Jehovah’s Witnesses were among the first groups the Nazis persecuted. There were about 25,000 to 30,000 Witnesses in Germany in 1933. About half of those who did not flee were convicted of various crimes and between 2,000 and 2,500 were sent to concentration camps, where about 1,000 died. About 250 were also executed.
      Some years ago I met a Jehovah’s Witness in the city where I live who told me the Nazis had beheaded his grandfather. Germany’s Jehovah’s Witnesses were not merely passive religious group that refused to adopt the Nazi ideology: they also actively tried to expose Nazi atrocities.
      In the 1960s and ‘70s in Malawi, entire villages of Jehovah’s Witnesses were burned, and many villagers were raped, tortured or murdered as they tried to flee. Their crime was refusal to participate in rituals of loyalty to the newly independent Malawian state and its president, Hastings Banda.
      The Malawi government denied me a visa in the early 1980s when I told its High Commission in Ottawa that I wanted to know what had happened to these Witnesses for research for my book, Human Rights in Commonwealth Africa.
      Many Witnesses in Rwanda, both Tutsi and Hutu, lost their lives during the 1994 genocide, many trying to hide people at risk of being murdered.Even now, Rwandan authorities expel some Witness children from school and have fired some Witness teachers because they refuse to sing the national anthem or participate in religious training.
      Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Canada
      Here in Canada, Jehovah’s Witnesses have not always enjoyed their rights to freedom of religion and expression.
      During the Second World War, Witness children were banned from schools in several locations because they would not salute the flag, sing the national anthem or repeat the pledge of allegiance. A Witness father sued the Hamilton Board of Education on behalf of his two sons, who had been expelled from school in 1940. In 1945, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, saying the Board was required to excuse students from participating in religious exercises to which their parents objected
      Read more: 
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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      A young Jehovah's Witness in her twenties remains in critical condition in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of San Jorge Hospital in Huesca, without the specialists being able to carry out a blood transfusion to try to save her life due to the instructions that the patient left before being intervened. The facts, released by the Heraldo de Aragón, were put this week in the knowledge of the court of guard of the capital of Aragon by one of the doctors of the UCI hospital HOSPITAL before the impossibility of consulting directly with the patient.
      After being operated on a few days ago, the girl suffered acute peritonitis that led doctors to induce a coma and to consider the need to carry out a blood transfusion. However, the patient left written in her living will and, according to her beliefs, her position of absolute rejection of blood transfusions, which Jehovah's Witnesses do not accept for religious reasons.
      Sources of the Superior Court of Justice of Aragon (TSJA) reported on Thursday that the holder of the Court of Instruction No. 1 of Huesca received the medical report while he was on duty and was warned of the refusal of the young woman to a transfusion, under of the Patient Autonomy Law. According to these sources, the magistrate, in view of the documentation provided, resolved to dismiss the claim on the understanding that there was no legal problem in relation to the patient's situation.
      These sources, in addition, do not make any reference to the position of the family of the young woman regarding the situation in which her daughter is currently. On the other hand, the Prosecutor's Office of Huesca, after receiving the report from the specialists of the ICU, decided not to intervene after assessing that the patient is of legal age and is entitled to make a decision regarding the medical treatments to be received.
      According to other judicial sources informed to Efe, the court of guard today in Huesca would not have received any other written referred to the case, reason why the specialists lack of options to be able to carry out the advised transfusion. These sources have pointed out that this case is not the only one that has been registered in the Aragonese Community over the last few years in relation to Jehovah's Witness patients, whose beliefs lead them to reject the mixture or intake of blood.
      This case occurs 25 years after the death of 13-year-old Marcos Alegre, deceased after his parents, residents in the Huesca town of Ballobar, did not accept that his son received a transfusion that specialists considered necessary to save his life. In the context of a debate that leaped into the media, the parents were acquitted of the crime of imprudent homicide that the prosecution charged them with, but were sentenced two years later, at the request of the public prosecutor's office, with a penalty of 2 years and 6 months. prison for these facts.
      Finally, the parents accepted a government pardon, before being definitively acquitted by the Constitutional Court, which based its decision on the right to religious freedom. This situation, previously assessed by the Board of Prosecutors before filing their appeal before the Supreme Court, motivated Circular 1/2012 of the State Attorney General's Office, referring only to the cases of minor Jehovah's Witnesses who reject blood transfusions. This circular urges prosecutors to explore all legal avenues at their disposal to try to save the lives of these minors whenever there is a medical possibility that allows it.

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Una Riley, 67, of Akron, passed away on March 20, 2019. Una was a member of Akron Central Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. She retired from FirstMerit Bank after 15 years of service.

      Una is survived by her loving husband, Tyrone; siblings, James (Connie) Mathews, Otha Loftin,David (Candace) Mathews, Marilyn Oliver, Walter Mathews, and Harold Garrett; honorary son and daughter, Daniel and Lenora Lewis; and a host of cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends.

      Una was preceded in death by her infant daughter, Francine; parents, Howard and Otha Garrett; and siblings, Gloria Johnson, Harry Mathews, and Barbara Gibbons.

      The family would like to thank everyone who supported them during this time of sorrow. A special thank you to the Cleveland Clinic Hospice, and Una's caretaker, Tammy, and special friends, Charlotte Holling and Alesia Stevens.

      A memorial service for Una will take place on Sunday March 31, 2019 at 2pm at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses at 1170 Eastwood Ave, Akron, OH 44305.

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      On Tuesday, we asked ex-JW activist Lloyd Evans about the Jehovah’s Witness view on climate change, since it’s an organization so centered around the idea of global catastrophe. Lloyd explained that because the planet was in Jehovah’s hands, Witnesses tended not to be concerned about environmental issues. We then received a rebuttal from Rob, a Witness who disagreed, and we’re very happy to publish his message to us, with his permission…
      The main point I am rebutting is this quote from Lloyd: “Jehovah’s Witnesses mostly have a very laid back approach to environmental concerns. They point to issues like global warming and damage to the environment as evidence that humans are incapable of ruling themselves….”
      Jehovah’s Witnesses, in fact, do have an active interest in environment, and encourage members to take action to reduce the negative affects we have on the environment. Consider one of our journals, the Awake! magazine, from 2007:
      The Bible assures us that every trace of the damage caused by man will be undone when God ‘makes all things new.’ (Revelation 21:5) However, we should not conclude that since God will in time restore the earth, our actions now do not matter. They do!
      That article further states that we are not indifferent to the earth’s plight:
      Jehovah God made the earth to be a gardenlike home for mankind. He pronounced all of his work to be “very good” and assigned man “to cultivate [the earth] and to take care of it.” (Genesis 1:28, 31; 2:15) How does God feel about earth’s present condition? Clearly, he is deeply offended by man’s mismanagement, for Revelation 11:18 foretells that he will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” So we should not be indifferent to the earth’s plight.
      Lastly, steps are given in this same article that we can or should take, to reduce the negative impact on our environment.
      It is proper, though, for us to consider the environmental impact of our choices in such areas as household purchases, transportation, and recreation. For example, some choose to purchase products that have been produced or that operate in ways that minimize damage to the environment. Others strive to reduce their share in activities that create pollution or unduly consume natural resources.
      This does not represent disinterest in climate change, or feigning interest in it. This is actively discussing ways to minimize our own environmental impact.
      So yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses do in fact believe that God will undo climate change once and for all, but this does not mean we are indifferent or apathetic, as the article above shows.
      Lastly, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ buildings received the highest possible rating of Four Green Globes for all seven of their buildings, for environmental efficiency.
      Really, the best way to show concern for our planet is to reduce the impact we have. Jehovah’s Witnesses build so to have the least negative impact as they possibly can.
      So whoever is suggesting that Jehovah’s Witnesses are apathetic to our environmental concerns is ignoring what’s in print, and how we construct our buildings, and the recognition we receive from authoritative environmental agencies.

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      EATONVILLE, WA - Pierce County firefighters battled a 15-acre brush fire near Eatonville on Wednesday night, one of dozens of fires that have broken out across Western Washington amid record-breaking March heat.
      Wednesday's fire near Eatonville burned near the intersection of SR 702 and Jackson Road, which is just west of SR 7 near the Jehovah's Witnesses temple.
      "Firefighters urge residents on Jackson Road to evacuate as this fire continues to grow," the Pierce County Firefighters union wrote on Twitter.
      Washington State Patrol officers were heading to the scene to assist with traffic control.
      On top warm temperatures, strong breezes have blown steadily since Monday, feeding and spreading fires.

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      – JW Headquarters (19.03.2019) – Almost two years after the ban of their movement in Russia, 150 Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently under investigation.Already in 2019 Russian law enforcement has conducted raids on JWs in 10 cities in 6 regions (in 2018 Russian agents conducted 280 searches in about 40 regions throughout the Federation).
      Latest figures regarding JWs facing criminal charges throughout Russia:
      Pretrial Detention: 24
      House arrest: 26
      Ban on activities: 5
      Recognizance: 55
      Wanted: 4
      Another EU citizen detained in Russia: Andrzej Oniszczuk from Poland
      Andrzej Oniszczuk, 50, has been kept in solitary confinement for over five months, and is not permitted to lie down from 06:00 to 21:00. He is only allowed to take a shower with hot water once a week for 15 minutes. The administration of the detention center in Kirov refuses to allow Andrzej to have a Bible.
      For the five months Andrzej has been detained, his wife, Anna, has not been allowed to visit him and has only communicated with him by letter. She has submitted several requests to visit Andrzej in prison; however the investigator in Kirov has repeatedly denied her requests. Typically prisoners in Russia can have visits from close family members, so it is unclear why such extreme action has been taken to keep Anna from seeing her husband.
      You may recall that Andrzej was arrested on Oct 9, 2018, when local police and masked special-forces raided 19 homes and one former place of worship for JWs in Kirov, Russia. Andrzej is being accused of “extremist” activity for simply singing biblical songs, improving the skills of missionary work, and studying religious literature.
      At the outset, Andrzej Oniszczuk was forced to sign a document under duress wherein he agreed to refuse visits by the Poland Embassy, so the embassy was initially unable to contact/assist. However, after several requests by the embassy, they have finally been allowed to visit/assist Andrzej. The address where Andrzej is being held:  FKU SIZO-1, UFSIN of Russia, Kirov Region, ul. Mopra, d. 1, Kirov, 610004. Andrzej’s pretrial detention has been extended twice (now through April 2, 2019).
      A total of seven men in Kirov are facing criminal charges for practicing their faith. Four men (44-yr-old Maksim Khalturin, 66-yr-old Vladimir Korobeynikov, 26-yr-old Andrey Suvorkov, and 41-yr-old Yevgeniy Suvorkov) had been arrested in October 2018 and held in pretrial along with Andrzej. Yevgeniy continues in pretrial detention, however the three others have been released to house arrest. Two other men (63-yr-old Vladimir Vasilyev and 25-yr-old Vladislav Grigorenko) from Kirov have been under investigation since January 21, 2019 but are not yet under any restrictions.
      BIO: Andrzej was born October 3, 1968 in the city of Białystok in northeastern Poland. After graduating from school, he became a lathe operator. Andrzej enjoys reading Russian literature, especially Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, and Pasternak. In 1997, he moved to Russia and worked for himself in the city of Kirov. There he met Anna, and they married in 2002.
      Anna, Andrzej Oniszczuk’s wife, has agreed to talk to journalists (Polish or Russian only). Her phone number +7(961) 748 2088 (via Telegram or Signal).
      Sergey Skrynnikov under threat of three years in prison
      On the heels of the Zheleznodorozhniy District Court of Oryol sentencing Dennis Christensen to six years in prison, another one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Sergey Skrynnikov, also from Oryol is being criminally tried at the same court for his peaceful worship as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and a verdict is expected on April 1, 2019.
      On 18 March, prosecutor Nadezhda Naumova recommended that the Court sentence 56-yr-old Sergey to three years in prison followed by one year of additional restrictions for so-called extremist activity. Closing statements by the defense will be next Thursday March 28, with the court’s verdict will be at 10am on Monday April 1.
      For more information, please contact Yaroslav Sivulskiy in Russia: (ysivulsk@jw.org; call or WhatsApp +7 985 359 34 10; +371 2 0044105).

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Name: Yuriy Belosludtsev
      Born: [to be determined]
      Current status: [to be determined]
      Detained since: 18 March 2019 
      Current restrictions: pre-trial detention
      Currently held in: [to be determined

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      An EU citizen has been placed in solitary confinement, denied visitation with his wife and subjected to a grueling daily regimen while awaiting trial in central Russia, the Jehovah’s Witnesses told The Moscow Times.
      The federal penitentiary service of Kirov region did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
      Andrzej Oniszczuk, 50, was one of several adherents of the religious group detained in the Volga region of Kirov on extremism charges in October 2018. Russia labeled the Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organization in 2017, leading to raids nationwide and the sentencing of a Danish national last month.
      “Andrzej has been kept in solitary confinement for over five months,” Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesman Jarrod Lopes said in an emailed statement.
      Prison authorities prohibit Oniszczuk from lying down for 15 hours during the day, withhold the Bible and allow showers only once a week, the spokesman said. Oniszczuk’s wife has been denied several requests to visit him, Lopes told The Moscow Times.
      He said Polish diplomats were “finally” allowed to visit and assist the EU citizen despite Oniszczuk’s initial signature “under duress” to refuse visits from embassy staff.
      The organization said a total of 24 Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently held in pretrial detention in Russia, where 150 believers are under investigation on extremism charges.
      Lopes said in February that investigators in Siberia had stripped, suffocated, doused with water and applied stun guns on at least seven believers detained on extremism charges. Russia's Investigative Committee has denied the claims.

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Serena Williams’s daughter Alexis Olympia turns 1 this week – but we shouldn’t expect any extravagant party pictures on the ‘gram.
      The tennis legend has confirmed that she will not be celebrating her baby girl’s first birthday, due to her beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness.
      Serena was speaking at a press conference at the when she was asked whether she has thought about she’d be celebrating Olympia’s first birthday.
      Responding to a reporter asking: ‘Is there a birthday party planned?’, the 36-year-old said: ‘Olympia doesn’t celebrate birthdays. We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, so we don’t do that.’
      It is believed Serena’s husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, is now practicing with his wife, despite not growing up in a religious household.
      Advertisement Advertisement
      Speaking to Vogue last year, Serena said: ‘Being a Jehovah’s Witness is important to me, but I’ve never really practiced it and have been wanting to get into it.
      ‘Alexis didn’t grow up going to any church, but he’s really receptive and even takes the lead. He puts my needs first.’
      Jehovah’s Witnesses believe God is the Creator and Supreme Being, and reject the Trinity doctrine.
      They do not celebrate religious holidays like Christmas and Easter, and do not observe birthdays or national holidays, feeling that many of these customs have pagan origins and do not celebrate God.

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Based on official documentation dated March 1, 2019, the Russian federation has seized the Jehovah’s Witness administrative center campus worth $30.4 million US dollars. The property has been transferred to the Federal State-funded institution Almazov National Medical Research of the Ministry of Healthcare of the Russian Federation. According to a representative from JW, “the Russian government has schemed to effectively steal this property from our U.S. corp, claiming the U.S. corp’s ownership was invalid and that the property was really owned by JWs in Russia.”

      Read more at World Religion News: "Russia Confiscates $30.4 Million Property From Jehovah’s Witnesses" https://www.worldreligionnews.com/?p=59873
       

    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Name: Khasan Abduvaitovich Kogut
      Born: 1983
      Current status: accused
      Detained since: 6 February 2019
      Time spent in prison: two days in the temporary holding facility in Berezovskiy
      Current restrictions: house arrest
      5 March 2019
       
      Case of Kogut in Berezovskiy
      Region: Kemerovo Region
      Locality: Berezovskiy
      Case number: 11907320001000083
      Current stage: preliminary investigation (pre-trial proceedings)
      Suspected of: according to the investigation they participated in religious services, which is interpreted as organising and participating in the activities of an extremist organisation (with reference to the decision of the Russian Supreme Court on the liquidation of all 396 registered organisations of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
      Article of the Russian Criminal Code: 282.2(2)
      Case initiated: 6 February 2019
      Investigating: Investigative Department of the Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Kemerovo Region
       

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      The Congolese woman, Bibiche Tshibola Makola, who is a Jehovah’s Witness by faith, was hesitant to have her own blood taken in advance, frozen and re-transfused into her.
      BENGALURU: A 39-year-old woman, who was diagnosed with a cardiac ailment, approached a city hospital, stating that she was ready to undergo any treatment, provided there was no blood transfusion involved in it. The Congolese woman, Bibiche Tshibola Makola, who is a Jehovah’s Witness by faith, was hesitant to have her own blood taken in advance, frozen and re-transfused into her. For Jehovah’s witnesses, transfusion of blood is against their religious belief.
      After a lot of analysis, surgeons at Fortis Hospital on Bannerghatta Road managed to perform a bloodless open-heart surgery and valve repair. According to doctors, the woman suffered from restrictive cardiomyopathy, where a chamber of the heart is unable to stretch and results in bleeding. The patient came to India for treatment, as many countries and centres refused to carry out the surgery.
      Dr Vivek Jawali, Chief Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeon at Fortis Hospitals said, “Makolo had severe restrictive cardiomyopathy, in which there is restrictive filling of the ventricles. With due respect to her religious beliefs, we recommended her to undergo a bloodless surgery.” 
      The doctors then sat together and had a peri-operative plan. “We put the patient on a series of medications, including blood conservatives that helped increase her haemoglobin level to 14.8 g/dL. The surgery was conducted using all the blood conservation techniques practised at our unit for all patients , It was successful and no blood transfusion was required during the entire procedure.”
      Dr Murali Chakravarthy, Department of Anaesthesia, explained that bloodless surgery is a risky situation and can lead to hemorrhagic shock in the patient. Bibiche’s husband Roger Muamba said, “We were very worried about her treatment. We were very happy with the doctors.”
      Jehovah’s Witnesses against blood transfusion
      They believe, according to the Bible, that one must not ingest blood, even through transfusion. Under Quebec’s civil code, an adult who is conscious and of sound mind, has the right to either accept or refuse medical treatment.

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      WEST POTSDAM — Rosemary Sweeney Martinez, 74, of Blanchard Road, peacefully passed away early Thursday morning, February 28, 2019 at Canton-Potsdam Hospital.
      Rosie, as she was affectionately known, was born May 21, 1944 in Herkimer, New York, the daughter of the late Elmer and Louella (Burdick) Sweeney and attended schools in Elyria, Ohio. On September 3, 1960, she married James L. Martinez in Syracuse with Harry Bernedetti officiating.
      Rosie was a dedicated homemaker to her husband and children. On July 31, 1954, she was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She was active with Potsdam Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall and enjoyed shopping on the clearance racks and generously gave her finds to those in need.
      Rosie is survived by her husband of nearly 59 years, Jim; her sons and their wives, Jay and Kim Martinez of Syracuse and Jeffrey and Shanna Martinez of Potsdam; and her grandchildren, Peter James, Rafael, Parker, and Rachelynn.
      In addition to her parents, she was predeceased by an infant daughter, Jody.
      There will be no calling hours. A Memorial Talk will be held at the Potsdam Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall on March 9, 2019 at 4:00 PM.
      Memorial contributions may be made in her memory to the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall.
      Arrangements are with the Donaldson-Seymour Funeral Home, Potsdam, where memories and condolences may be shared online at www.donaldsonseymour.com.

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      By Editorial Board
      March 2 at 7:09 PM
      RUSSIA’S PURSUIT of believers in the Jehovah’s Witnesses is reviving dark practices of the past. The worst of the Soviet Union’s interrogation methods appear to have been revived recently in the Siberian city of Surgut. Although today’s Russia was founded on principles of freedom of thought and worship, under a constitution that guarantees them, the security services behave as if Joseph Stalin were still around.
      In April 2017, the Russian Supreme Court ruled that Jehovah’s Witnesses should be labeled an extremist organization. This is nonsense. The Jehovah’s Witnesses eschew subservience to the state; they refuse military service, do not vote and view God as the only true leader. For their convictions, they are suffering an intense crackdown by Russia’s security services. Raids against them have taken place in 40 regions. There are now 140 believers facing criminal charges, including 26 in pretrial detention and 26 others under house arrest.
      The latest assault on the Jehovah’s Witnesses is particularly shocking. According to the group, early in the morning of Feb. 15, security services carried out mass searches of homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Surgut and the town of Lyantor, both in the region of Khanty-Mansi in Siberia. About 40 people were detained, and a criminal case opened against 19 believers, claiming they were either organizing or supporting an “extremist” organization.
      Seven of those detained were tortured between interrogation sessions in Surgut on the first floor of the Russian Investigative Committee’s offices, a spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses said. The spokesman said Russian security officers placed a bag over a suspect’s head, wrapped it with tape for suffocation, tied a suspect’s hands behind his back, smashed his fingers and beat him on his neck, feet and in the kidney area. They poured water over the detained men and applied electric shocks. The spokesman said the men were repeatedly questioned about the location of meetings, names of elders and for passwords to their phones. Three are still in detention. The investigative committee in Surgut denied the allegations but then said it would investigate. Amnesty International said its interviews “strongly indicate that torture and other ill-treatment did take place.”
      In his recent State of the Union address, President Trump boasted that he has “taken historic actions to protect religious liberty.” But he has been silent about the latest brutality against Jehovah’s Witnesses. Where is Vice President Pence, who has declared that religious freedom is a “top priority of this administration”? Or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo? They have failed to uphold the U.S. role as a beacon of hope to those suffering for their religious beliefs.
      Source: 
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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      One believer was jailed and four others placed under house arrest February 28, 2019, in Ulyanovsk.  Svetlana Chebukina, a judge of the Leninsky District Court of Ulyanovsk, sent 53-year-old Sergey Mysin to jail after he was accused of “organizing an extremist organization” in connection with his religion. His wife, Natalya, as well as Andrey Tabakov, 43, Khoren Khachikyan, 33, and  Mikhail Zelensky, 58, were placed under house arrest.
      The case against residents of Ulyanovsk who are suspected of being Jehovah's Witnesses was initiated by the local department of Federal Security Service (FSB). Worshippers are accused of “popularization of the ideas of Jehovah's Witnesses, promoting the superiority of these ideas over other religious teachings, finding venues for meetings of participants in this organization, and direct participation in meetings.” On February 27, their apartments were searched.
      According to the court order, Sergey Mysin must be detained in SIZO-1 in the Ulyanovsk Region until April 23, 2019, inclusive.
      Law enforcement officers repeatedly misconstrue normal worship as participation in the activities of an extremist organization. As these abuses mount, they have been noted and denounced by many observers including prominent public figures in Russia, the Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation, the President of the Russian Federation, as well as international organizations like European External Action Service, observers of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. In actuality, Jehovah's Witnesses are in no way related to extremism and insist on their complete innocence. The Russian government has repeatedly stated that the decisions of the Russian courts to liquidate and ban the organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses “set out no assessment of the religious denomination of Jehovah’s Witnesses or limitation or prohibition to individually manifest the aforementioned denominations.”

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      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.

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