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JW Russia: Jehovah’s Witnesses: Neglected victims of persecution

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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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    • By Indiana
      By Felix Corley, Forum 18
      In addition to one Muslim on trial in Shymkent, 18 individuals are known to be currently jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief. All are Sunni Muslim men. A further 11 are serving restricted freedom sentences. A further 12 are under post-jailing bans on specific activity. A further 29 who have completed sentences still have their bank accounts blocked.
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      In addition, a further 29 individuals who have completed prison terms or restricted freedom sentences, apparently as well as any possible post-jailing bans, still have access to any bank accounts blocked (see below).

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      Criminal cases against almost all these individuals were initiated by the National Security Committee (KNB) secret police.

      The closed trial in Shymkent of 40-year-old Muslim Dilmurat Makhamatov began on 4 April.  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.

      Known individuals on trial (1 person), serving prison sentences (18), serving restricted freedom sentences (11), under post-jailing bans (12) and still on the financial blacklist after completing sentences (29) are listed below.
        Who are the victims?

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      Some of the individuals admitted adherence to the group. Others were punished for discussing their faith with other Muslims in mosques, on the streets or in homes.

      The KNB secret police have also initiated criminal cases against Muslims who earlier studied their faith in Saudi Arabia.

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      The authorities are still seeking the return of other Muslims now based abroad. They failed to have Murat Bakrayev returned from Germany, when  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.

      The KNB earlier arranged the criminal prosecution of three non-Muslims for talking about their faith to others, apparently set up by the KNB. Seventh-day Adventist Yklas Kabduakasov  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. , while two Jehovah's Witnesses, Teymur Akhmedov and Asaf Guliyev  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. . Kabduakasov is still on the financial blacklist after completing his prison term, while Guliyev is still serving his restricted freedom sentence. 

      Then-President Nursultan Nazarbayev pardoned Akhmedov – a pensioner and cancer sufferer - in April 2018.  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.
        Criminal Code charges

      All these individuals have been punished under one or several of three Articles of the current Criminal Code (or their earlier equivalents):

      - Criminal Code Article 174, which punishes "Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious discord, insult to the national honour and dignity or religious feelings of citizens, as well as propaganda of exclusivity, superiority or inferiority of citizens on grounds of their religion, class, national, generic or racial identity, committed publicly or with the use of mass media or information and communication networks, as well as by production or distribution of literature or other information media, promoting social, national, clan, racial, or religious discord".

      - Criminal Code Article 256, which punishes "Propaganda of terrorism or public calls to commit terrorism".

      - Criminal Code Article 405, which punishes "Organising or participating in the activity of a social or religious association or other organisation after a court decision banning their activity or their liquidation in connection with extremism or terrorism they have carried out".

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        Post-jail bans

      Post-jailing bans on specific activity are often handed down as part of the sentence. For those convicted to punish exercise of freedom of religion or belief, such bans – which can be vaguely worded - often include bans on visiting places of worship or sharing their faith with others.

      When a court jailed Muslim Saken Tulbayev in July 2015, it also  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  In September 2016, the Supreme Court  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.

      When an Astana court jailed Jehovah's Witness Teymur Akhmedov in May 2017, it also  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  This ban was lifted when Akhmedov was freed and pardoned in April 2018.
        Financial blacklisting

      Those convicted for exercising freedom of religion or belief are almost always added to the Finance Ministry Financial Monitoring Committee List of individuals "connected with the financing of terrorism or extremism".  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.

      Individuals remain on the financial blacklist for six or eight years after their sentence has expired as they are deemed still to have a criminal record.
        On trial

      1) Dilmurat Sultanmuratovich Makhamatov; Sunni Muslim; born 21 February 1979; arrested 19 December 2018; trial began 4 April 2019 Shymkent's Al-Farabi District Court; Criminal Code Article 174, Part 2 and Article 256, Part 2.
        Jailed

      The 18 individuals (all of them Sunni Muslim men) known to be serving prison sentences to punish them for exercising freedom of religion or belief. Listed in reverse order of date of release.

      1) Dadash Temergaliyevich Mazhenov; Sunni Muslim; born 28 September 1990; arrested 23 April 2018; sentenced 16 November 2018 Burabai District Court; Criminal Code Article 256, Part 2; appeal rejected 30 January 2019 Akmola Regional Court; 7 years and 8 months in a general regime labour camp plus fee of 60,790.14 Tenge. Expected prison release date: December 2025.

      2) Galymzhan Ramazanovich Abilkairov; Sunni Muslim; born 29 January 1988; arrested 23 April 2018; sentenced 19 October 2018 Burabai District Court; Criminal Code Article 256, Part 2; appeal rejected 26 December 2018 Akmola Regional Court; 7 years and 7 months' jail term. Expected prison release date: November 2025.

      3) Abdukhalil Abdukhamidovich Abduzhabbarov; Sunni Muslim; born 6 April 1975; arrested 18 February 2017; sentenced 16 August 2017 Oral City Court; Old Criminal Code Article 164, Part 3 (equivalent to Article 174, Part 3 of new Code); 8 year prison term, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected prison release date: February 2025.

      4) Nariman Kabdyrakhmanovich Seytzhanov; Sunni Muslim; born 2 May 1989; arrested 15 January 2017 (after earlier arrest in Kyrgyzstan); sentenced 9 June 2017 Kokshetau City Court; Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1; appeal rejected 16 August 2017 Akmola Regional Court; 5 year prison term, plus 91,693.58 Tenge fee, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected prison release date: January 2022.

      5) Satymzhan Bagytzhanuli Azatov; Sunni Muslim; born 17 September 1989; arrested 4 January 2017; sentenced 10 July 2017 Astana's Saryarka Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1 and Article 256, Part 1; appeal rejected 12 September 2017 Astana City Court; 4 year and 8 month prison term, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected prison release date: September 2021.

      6) Abilai Aidaruly Bokbasarov; Sunni Muslim; born 12 February 1991; arrested 13 August 2018; sentenced 9 January 2019 Balkhash City Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1; no appeal; 3 years' imprisonment in a medium-security institution, plus 5-year post-prison ban on right to engage in religious activity. Expected prison release date: August 2021.

      7) Iliyan Raiymzhan; Sunni Muslim; born 8 February 1992; arrested April 2017; arrested April 2017; sentenced 1 August 2017 Tekeli City Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Parts 1 and 2; appeal rejected 19 September 2017 Almaty Regional Court 4 year prison term, plus 2 and a half years' post-prison ban on exercise of religious freedom, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected prison release date: April 2021.

      😎 Kuanysh Ablayevich Bashpayev; Sunni Muslim; born 3 February 1987 ; arrested 12 October 2016; sentenced 7 April 2017 Pavlodar City Court No. 2; appeal 15 June 2017 Pavlodar Regional Court modified labour camp provision; Old Criminal Code Article 164, Part 1 (equivalent to Article 174, Part 1 of new Code); 4 and a half years' imprisonment, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected prison release date: April 2021.

      9) Bakhytzhan Esimkhanovich Baimusayev; Sunni Muslim; born 15 November 1963; arrested at end of trial; sentenced 4 April 2017 Sairam District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1; no appeal; 4 years' imprisonment, plus 4-year post-prison ban on activities, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected prison release date: April 2021.

      10) Abduvakhab Salibekovich Shakirov; Sunni Muslim; born 21 December 1962; arrested at end of trial; sentenced 4 April 2017 Sairam District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1; no appeal; 4 years' imprisonment, plus 4-year post-prison ban on activities, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected prison release date: April 2021.

      11) Serik Elubayevich Kanaliyev; Sunni Muslim; born 25 April 1971; arrest date unknown; sentenced 22 December 2016 Zhanaozen City Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1 and Part 2; no appeal; 4 years' imprisonment. Expected prison release date: by December 2020.

      12) Kazbek Asylkhanovich Laubayev; Sunni Muslim; born 30 October 1978; arrested 30 October 2017; sentenced 6 April 2018 Karaganda's October District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1; appeal rejected 22 May 2018 Karaganda Regional Court; 3 years' imprisonment in general regime labour camp. Expected prison release date: October 2020.

      13) Marat Amantayevich Konyrbayev; Sunni Muslim; born 16 March 1981; arrested 30 October 2017; sentenced 6 April 2018 Karaganda's October District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1; appeal rejected 22 May 2018 Karaganda Regional Court; 3 years' imprisonment in general regime labour camp. Expected prison release date: October 2020.

      14) Taskali Nasipkaliyevich Naurzgaliyev; Sunni Muslim; born 3 May 1981; arrested 30 October 2017; sentenced 6 April 2018 Karaganda's October District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1; appeal rejected 22 May 2018 Karaganda Regional Court; 3 years' imprisonment in general regime labour camp. Expected prison release date: October 2020.

      15) Saken Peisenovich Tulbayev; Sunni Muslim; born 16 June 1969; arrested 1 April 2015; sentenced 2 July 2015 Almaty's Bostandyk Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1 and Article 405, Part 2; 4 years 8 months' imprisonment, plus 3-year ban on sharing his faith with others and membership of "extremist" organisations. Expected prison release date: December 2019.

      16) Rollan Talgatovich Arystanbekov; Sunni Muslim; born 5 December 1981; 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; 3 year prison term, plus 2 or 3 year post-prison ban on exercise of religious freedom, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected prison release date: November 2019.

      17) Dmitry Valeryevich Tsilenko; Sunni Muslim; born 7 February 1991; arrested 5 October 2016; sentenced 12 May 2017 Kostanai City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1; appeal rejected 4 July 2017 Kostanai Regional Court; 3 year prison term, plus 278,038 Tenge fee, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected prison release date: October 2019.

      18) Serik Kudaibergenovich Erimbetov; Sunni Muslim; born 12 September 1975; 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 Almaty Regional Court; 3 years' prison, plus fee plus bank accounts blocked. Expected prison release date: July 2019.
        Restricted freedom sentences

      The 11 individuals (all but one of them Sunni Muslim men) known to be serving restricted freedom sentences to punish them for exercising freedom of religion or belief. Individuals live at home on probation and under restrictions. Listed in reverse order of date of release.

      1) Ermek Serikovich Kuanshaliyev; Sunni Muslim; born 29 December 1980; arrested 20 October 2018; sentenced 6 December 2018 Atyrau City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1 and Article 405, Part 2; no appeal; 3 and a half years' restricted freedom, plus book destruction. Expected restricted freedom release date: April 2022.

      2) Erzhan Ruslanovich Sharmukhambetov; Sunni Muslim; born 26 November 1980; arrested 20 October 2018; sentenced 6 December 2018 Atyrau City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1 and Article 405, Part 2; no appeal; 3 and a half years' restricted freedom. Expected restricted freedom release date: April 2022.

      3) Denis Valeryevich Korzhavin; Sunni Muslim; born 21 May 1983; arrested 18 February 2017; sentenced 11 May 2017 Almaty's Almaly District Court; Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1; no appeal; 5 years' restricted freedom, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected restricted freedom release date: February 2022.

      4) Asaf Gadzhiaga ogly Guliyev; Jehovah's Witness; born 4 October 1973; arrested 18 January 2017; sentenced 24 February 2017 Astana's Saryarka Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 174, Part 2; no appeal; 5 years' restricted freedom, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected restricted freedom release date: January 2022.

      5) Amanzhol Zhaksylykovich Kishkentekov; Sunni Muslim; born 10 December 1973; arrested May 2018; sentenced 9 July 2018 Aktobe City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Parts 1 and 2; no appeal; 3 years' restricted freedom plus 120 hours' community service. Expected restricted freedom release date: May 2021.

      6) Zhanat Sabyrzhanuly Dosalin; Sunni Muslim; born 15 May 1981; arrested May 2018; sentenced 9 July 2018 Aktobe City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Parts 1 and 2; no appeal; 3 years' restricted freedom. Expected restricted freedom release date: May 2021.

      7) Zhasulan Zhappargaliuly; Sunni Muslim; born 14 April 1980; sentenced 9 July 2018 Aktobe City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; no appeal; 1 year's restricted freedom plus 120 hours' community service. Expected restricted freedom release date: July 2019.

      😎 Mukharam Bulikbayevich Baizakov; Sunni Muslim; born 13 February 1959; sentenced 9 July 2018 Aktobe City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; no appeal; 1 year's restricted freedom plus 120 hours' community service. Expected restricted freedom release date: July 2019.

      9) Daulet Imanshapiuly Elemesov; Sunni Muslim; born 15 June 1989; sentenced 9 July 2018 Aktobe City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; no appeal; 1 year's restricted freedom plus 120 hours' community service. Expected restricted freedom release date: July 2019.

      10) Aslan Ryskaliyevich Temiralin; Sunni Muslim; born 15 June 1974; sentenced 9 July 2018 Aktobe City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; no appeal; 1 year's restricted freedom. Expected restricted freedom release date: July 2019.

      11) Miras Bisengaliyevich Murzagulov; Sunni Muslim; born 2 June 1984; sentenced 9 July 2018 Aktobe City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2; no appeal; 1 year's restricted freedom, plus book destruction. Expected restricted freedom release date: July 2019.
        Post-jail restrictions

      The 12 individuals (all of them Sunni Muslim men) under often vague bans on conducting specific activity (related to the exercise of freedom of religion or belief) now their prison term has ended. This is almost certainly an underestimate, as many such post-prison bans do not become public. Listed in reverse order of when such bans expire.

      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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    • By Kurt
      RUSSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT AGREES THAT WEBSITE MAY BE RULED EXTREMIST FOR CONTENTS OF A SINGLE PAGE.
      Lenizdat.ru, 31 January 2016

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

      BelPressa [Belgorod], 2 February 2016

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


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    • By bruceq
      Translated from Russian so please excuse any inaccuracies 
      Representatives of the Guinness Book of Records is ready to commit a new world record for the number of letters written ?! What is this marvelous news, which is almost entirely ignored by the media, especially in Russia, but considered representatives of the Guinness Book of Records? Most recently, the post offices in many countries ended international brands. In Facebook, Instagram and other social networks continues to grow the number of photos with people, writing letters to Russia.  Guinness workers watch to see letter-writing campaign can this be included in the Book of Records.  The current record holder for writing letters  The current record for a letter-writing marathon organization "Amnesty International": write letters in defense of human rights. The campaign has been written in general, more than one million letters, through which dozens of people were released.  What is this new story - by writing letters in Russian ? At a time when everyone is busy controversy about the extent to which Russia could intervene in the recent US elections, Russia quietly, significantly limited and restricts the freedom of one particular group of its citizens.  Perhaps you read and say, "Well, it - Russia, in the end; Is not she always restricts the rights of its citizens? ". Not really.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia became a democratic society with the Constitution, described  even more clearly and specifically than freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.  Despite this assurance, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation petitioned the Supreme Court to recognize Jehovah's Witnesses (Jehovah's Witnesses) extremists on a par with an organization such as LIH. If the claim is satisfied, then for more than 175,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in the country illegally will meet to worship, to discuss the Bible with others or even just to read the Bible in their own homes. Hearing on the case was scheduled for April 5, 2017, hearings were held and now the court will continue April 12, 2017. Interesting statistics © Google Trends All these actions of the Russian authorities have led to the fact that the dynamics of the popularity of Jehovah's Witnesses on the Internet has increased a record compared to other religious denominations.  As they say, are now Jehovah's Witnesses on the Internet in the trend, as ever! :-) Top of the Pops in the Google Trends has received their official website, which is locked in a single country in the world - Russia. Witnesses decided to take the pens and pencils In response to the injustice all 8,000,000 of Jehovah's Witnesses from all over the world have decided to write a letter in defense of their Russian fellow six key officials in Moscow, including the president - Vladimir Putin.  Sending six letters by mail to Moscow from the United States costs about $ 8. The total cost of postage, according to one researcher, based only on the US level, amounted to more than $ 55 million. In some other countries it cost the family a large part of their monthly income. But these costs do not stop Jehovah's Witnesses to write so many letters in support of their co-religionists.  H as the basis of reports from sots.setey, "Jehovah's Witnesses",  their children , friends and business partners took up this matter with great desire.  Surprisingly, if each of the 8,000,000 people to send six letters, Facebook mathematician calculated that Moscow post office can get a stack of mail in height or length of over 30 kilometers!  And Russian Post has celebrated the new record of international mail. This campaign of letter-writing, which was organized by Jehovah's Witnesses, in some countries went so quickly and orderly, that simply amazed. Here is one example: Foreign media about the trial witnesses and letter-writing campaign In addition, many foreign media spread the news about the forthcoming decision of the court, and the campaign of writing letters against the RF Ministry of Justice action against Jehovah's Witnesses  (in English / in English) : The article on the Australian site   the R ealnewsone  begins with the incredible, but absolutely accurate entry : "The Russian government has decided to defy Jehovah God." Rochester, NY (Rochester, NY): Jehovah's Witnesses in favor of freedom in Russia. Of Missouri You will's University then Religion News the Service (University of Missouri, news service): Jehovah's Witnesses are afraid that the Russian authorities may prohibit them Philippines of The (Philippines): Witnesses problem - we join in the appeal against the Russian threat to ban them Leone sierra ( Sierra Leone): "Jehovah's Witnesses" - Mobilizing the global response to the threat of a ban in Russia. The Network's Mission Michigan You will News : Religious freedom and the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia Spokane, Washington You : Jehovah's Witnesses protest against the label And Tobago trinidad : Russia: Witnesses terrorist group World television channel the BBC , on its front page, post articles and videos , as law enforcement throw Witnesses prohibited materials with explanatory interview with a representative of Jehovah's Witnesses, Jaroslav Sivulskii (in English / in English). Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia and the websites of other countries  also reprinted a press release on the official website of Jehovah's Witnesses.  Although the titles of the pro-Russian news sources, you can see several different outlook. But, in fact, the English-language news read as Russian: Had enough, enough, unjustly, that Jehovah's Witnesses are facing a ban! The Helsinki Commission , which consists of US senators and congressmen condemned the Russian lawyers filed a lawsuit. The UN also called on Russia to stop the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses. While a sense of world politicians are not appreciated, millions of Jehovah's Witnesses letters - peaceful, law-abiding citizens who  just  want  that  all  people  have  the freedom  of religion -  strewed all over the world and are perhaps even more chances to persuade the Russian government to stop the persecution than a few American politicians.  If your local news outlet covered this story, please feel free to send them the link to this article.  Jehovah's Witnesses in the Book of Records  Guinness The future will show whether the representatives of the Guinness Book record a new world record for the number of letters written. Jehovah's Witnesses have at times fall into the Guinness World Records  - the number of languages into which translations of their literature magazine  The Watchtower,  which was there , even witnesses were in this book because of the refusal of transfusion of foreign blood .  Although Jehovah's Witnesses are not fundamentally, will they in the  Guinness Book of Records for the number of written messages or not, because their main task is quite different - the commandment that instructed them to their Lord Christ, in particular, in Matthew 7: 12; Matthew 22: 35-40; 28: 18-20; John 13: 34-35 ...
      Подробнее тут: 
      Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. WATCHTOWER HISTORICAL ITEMS AND RESEARCH PUBLICATIONS -FOR MORE INFO AND BOOKS ON RUSSIA REPRESSION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES SEE {LISA.JOEYWIT EBAY}.
    • By ARchiv@L
      Many NGOs have denounced worldwide the severe persecution of the Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses that is taking place in Russia.
      This issue was also discussed in Italy in two important conferences held in the Chamber of Deputies, respectively organized by  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. on October 26, 2016, and by  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  on March 22, 2017.
      The current situation of this religious organization in Russia is heavily effected by the approval and entry into force of the controversial “Yarovaya law” that struck indiscriminately all churches other than the Russian Orthodox Church. An international chorus of voices was raised in recent months in defence of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.
      Five Members of the Italian Parliament decided to add their voices to this chorus denouncing the serious violations of religious freedom of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia,  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.   Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. , at session n. 772).
      On. Rostellato, Lacquaniti, Paola Boldrini, Oliviero and Tieri reminded that
      "The Constitution of the Russian Federation -Art. 28- guarantees freedom of religion, including the right to profess a faith individually, collectively or to not profess any, to freely choose, have and to disseminate religious beliefs. The Constitution - Art. 30 - provides that everyone has the right to freely associate".
      Moreover, Jehovah's Witnesses are legally recognized in over 220 countries of the world, their religious activities are peaceful and respectful of other people's freedom and of the law, according to the European Court of Human Rights, in more than 47 judgments.
      Therefore, in light of the above, Deputies ask
      "Whether the Italian Government is aware of the facts outlined in the introduction and if it intends to take diplomatic initiatives to raise awareness in the Russian Government to respect the professions of faith in the Russian territory".

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    • By 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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    • By Indiana
      Armed Russian FSB security service officers raided six Jehovah's Witness homes around Yalta, seizing religious literature. Artem Gerasimov faces "extremism"-related criminal charges with a maximum ten year jail term, the second Crimean Jehovah's Witness to face such charges. On 16 April, Russia's Supreme Court is due to hear appeals by four Muslims convicted in January of membership of the Muslim group Tabligh Jamaat.
      On 20 March, armed Russian FSB security service officers raided at least six Jehovah's Witness homes in the southern Crimean city of Yalta and the nearby suburb of Alupka. At least one of the FSB officers was carrying what appeared to be an assault rifle over his shoulder, despite Jehovah's Witnesses known for being pacifist. Officers seized religious literature, money and other documents, and took several people for interrogation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Ukraine and the international community do not recognise Russia's March 2014 annexation of Crimea. After the annexation, Russia imposed its restrictions on freedom of religion and belief.  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.

      Russia's Supreme Court  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.

      Russia's Supreme Court  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  Prosecutors in Russia  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  Of these, at least 25 are in pre-trial detention and 26 under house arrest as of 2 April 2019. Others have had to sign pledges not to leave their home town without permission.

      Following Russia's occupation of Crimea, the Russian authorities granted re-registration to Jehovah's Witness communities in Crimea,  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.
        Raid, interrogations, confiscations

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

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

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

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

      Officers place religious literature on a bed. Some of the titles are Jehovah's Witness publications, such as their "New World" version of the Bible, which  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  Others however are Bible translations and a Bible concordance used by Russian Orthodox, Protestants and others and which have not been banned.
        Criminal case

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

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

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

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

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

      The criminal case –  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  – was the first against Jehovah's Witnesses in occupied Crimea. Like Gerasimov, Filatov had to sign a pledge not to leave his home town.

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

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

      Five days after the criminal case was opened,  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      The four men met openly in mosques to discuss their faith.  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.

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

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

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

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

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

      Suleimanov's address in Investigation Prison:

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

      (END)

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

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    • By 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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    • By Indiana
      At least six homes of local Jehovah's Witnesses were searched by officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) on March 20, 2019, in the Crimean towns of Yalta and Alupka. A criminal case has been initiated against believers, citing the article 282.2(1), “Organization of the activities of an extremist organization.” Several persons were detained for interrogation. 34-year-old Artyom Gerasimov was taken to the republican center city of Simferopol.
      During the searches, computers and other electronic devices belonging to believers were seized, along with their Bibles. The case is led by FSB investigators A. Lavrov and S. Bosiyev.
      Earlier, on November 15, 2018, a major operation against the Witnesses took place in Dzhankoy (Crimea).

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    • By 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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    • By 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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    • By Indiana
      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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    • By 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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    • By Indiana
      Name: Volosnikov Sergey Vladimirovich 
      Born: 1977
      Current status: [to be determined]
      Current restrictions: [to be determined]
      Biography
      On February 15, 2019, there were massive searches in the homes of believers in the city of Surgut. This was followed by the beating and torturing of believers. Sergey Volosnikov is one of seven Jehovah’s Witnesses who reported torture.

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    • By Indiana
      Question:  Why did Jehovah’s Witnesses  recently organize a worldwide letter writing campaign due to the persecution in Russia and not for other countries where there is also persecution?
    • By 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
       

    • By 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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    • By Indiana
      "The organization of Jehovah's Witnesses is very hierarchical, led by men, and encourages a culture of silence," the judge ruled.
      Citing a hierarchy that “encourages a culture of silence,” a Quebec Superior Court judge has authorized a class-action lawsuit for current or former Jehovah’s Witnesses in Quebec who were sexually abused by other members as minors.
      Authorized last week, the class action argues the church’s internal reporting policies conceal abuse and have silenced hundreds of sexual assault complaints through the years. It seeks at least $250,000 in damages for each alleged victim.
      The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Lisa Blais, a Quebec woman born into a Jehovah’s Witness family. She alleges she was repeatedly sexually abused and assaulted by her brother, 13 years older, beginning when she was only 10 months old.
      It’s estimated there are roughly 27,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Quebec.
      “Given that the lawsuit is based on sexual assaults, a class action is the appropriate measure,” Quebec Superior Court Judge Chantal Corriveau wrote in her 27-page decision. “It would be difficult and impracticable for members to individually come out of the shadows and try to make their claims known.”
      The lawsuit targets the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Canada, the parent company of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country, and another society based in Pennsylvania that’s responsible for the church’s communications and publications.
      At the heart of the class action is whether the church failed to protect its members when they tried to denounce sexual abuse.
      According to the lawsuit, Blais, now in her 40s, first spoke out about the alleged abuse when she was 16 years old. She sought help from her parents, another Jehovah’s Witness and an elder — members who act as spiritual leaders in different congregations — but says she was discouraged from reporting the abuse in order to protect the community.
      Blais left her family at 17 and was officially disfellowshipped at 24.
      Lawyers arguing against the class action contended Blais’s allegations were too vague, that her wounds stem from the incest and her parents failing to protect her from it, and that it isn’t the court’s place to interfere with religious practices.
      But Corriveau found otherwise, ruling Blais’s allegations are “based on a set of substantiated facts.”
      “The organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is very hierarchical, led by men, and encourages a culture of silence,” Corriveau wrote. “The internal treatment of complaints of sexual abuse illustrates that.
      “It is easy for the Tribunal to conclude that, as a result, victims who have not been encouraged or supported to denounce these assaults also do not have the courage to confront their aggressor and the organization in court by instituting an individual lawsuit.”
      Reached for comment on the ruling, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Canada said it’s considering its options for appeal.
      “The class action was authorized solely on the basis of unproven allegations,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement.
      “If this matter proceeds to trial the facts will clearly show Jehovah’s Witnesses report allegations of abuse to the authorities, in line with the Youth Protection Act,” he added. “The well-being of children is of utmost importance to Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
      Blais’s lawyer, Sarah Woods, said her client was pleased with the ruling.
      Lead plaintiffs in class-action suits involving child abuse often remain anonymous through the proceedings, but Blais chose not to.
      According to the class-action application, filed two years ago, Blais wanted to lead the suit “in order to assist other victims” and “to provide access to justice” to other potential class members.
      “There is a sense that if victims are willing to be the face of such a recourse,” Woods said on Monday, “that hopefully it will encourage other people to come forward and speak out.”

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    • By 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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    • By 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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