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

    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      On August 15, 2019, in the Zheleznodorozhny District Court of Khabarovsk, the criminal  investigation against local resident Valery Moskalenko, 52, was completed. He faces up to six years in prison because in the spring of 2018 in a hotel conference room he allegedly talked with friends about faith in Jehovah God. The case is being heard by Judge Ivan Belykh. Debate will begin August 28. The prosecution will announce the sentence they are requesting be imposed on the believer. 

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

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

      The four lodged a civil suit to Mingachevir City Court, seeking redress for the police’s illegal entry into Aliyev’s home without a court order or search warrant, their “detention, verbal insults and humiliation”, and seizure of personal literature. But the court rejected the suit on 25 May 2018.

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      ChinaAid reports that 18 individuals have been indicted in Xinjiang, 17 for “using an evil religion organization” to “incite the obstruction of law enforcement,” and one of them for “obstructing law enforcement by organizing and using an evil religious organization.” ChinaAid also provides the names of all these indicted and further details.
      The formulae mentioned by ChinaAid correspond to Art. 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code, which establishes jail penalties of three to seven years “or more” for  “using a xie jiao” (sometimes translated as “evil cult” and in ChinaAid article as “evil religious organization,” while scholars point out that “heterodox teachings” would be a better translation). The formula “using a xie jiao for obstructing the law enforcement” (or “inciting the obstruction of law enforcement”) is also customary.
      While Chinese propaganda abroad insists that Art. 300 is only enforced against members of groups the CCP labels as xie jiao, including Falun Gong and The Church of Almighty God, who commit serious crimes, this case confirms once again that this interpretation is false. “Using a xie jiao for obstructing law enforcement” is a rhetoric formula used as a synonymous for “being active in an illegal religious organization.” In fact, the 18 Jehovah’s Witnesses were accused of “spreading superstition and heresy” and of inciting people not to join the CCP (Witnesses are forbidden by their religion from joining any political organization), not of any other crime. It is clear that Art. 300 is enforced against those who gather to profess, or spread, a banned faith, a typical “crime of conscience.” No other crime is required.
      It is the first time that Art. 300 is applied for a general crackdown against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. As far as Bitter Winter knows, they are not included in the current list of the xie jiao, yet the indictment in Xinjiang implies that they are regarded as a xie jiao. In fact, we have learned that recently pastors of the Three-Self Church insisted that the list of the xie jiao should be expanded, including new groups they regard as “heretic” (and perhaps as too successful in converting members of the same Three-Self Church).
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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      On May 24, 2019, Markus Grübel, the German Commissioner for Global Freedom of Religion, spoke in connection with the fact that the Russian appellate court upheld the sentence of Dennis Christensen. “I regret the decision of the court that rejected the appeal in the case of Christensen,” said Markus Grübel. “I am concerned about the situation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. Freedom of religion and ideology is an important human right. Every state should respect it. Religious freedom is indivisible and is valid for all religious communities.”

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


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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      The FSB has detained representatives of 15 communities of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Dagestan. They are accused of extremist activity (Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), riadagestan.ru reports.
      A large number of “propaganda items” have been seized from community members, law enforcement officials say. According to the FSB, “for several years, members of the community carried out secret meetings to study extremist literature and coordinate activities to disseminate the ideology of the organization.”
      The exact number of people the special services detained on this case is not reported.
      Jehovah’s Witnesses is an international religious organization with millions of adherents around the world. Jehovah’s Witnesses conduct their activities in most countries of the world. At the same time, in some countries their activity is restricted or banned (among them China, Russia, Vietnam and some Islamic countries).
      Jehovah’s Witnesses organization was recognized as an extremist by the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in 2017. Its activity in Russia is prohibited. Human rights activists believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted solely for their religious beliefs and have repeatedly demanded that political repression against the organization be stopped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      The law enforcers, who conducted a search of the apartment of Arsen Abdullaev, a Jehovah's Witness (the organization, recognized as extremist and banned in Russia by the court), who was arrested in Dagestan, used threats and intimidation, Suat, Arsen's wife, has stated.
      The "Caucasian Knot" has reported that on June 1, searches were conducted in Makhachkala, Kaspiysk, Kizlyar and Derbent, after which Jehovah's Witnesses, Arsen Abdullaev, Maria Karpova, Anton Dergalyov and Marat Abdugalimov were detained. On June 3, the court arrestedthem for two months.
      Read more: 
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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Jehovah's Witnesses may appeal a judgment that gave the green light to a class-action lawsuit against them for alleged sexual assault on minors.
      Jehovah’s Witnesses in Quebec may appeal a judgment that gave the green light to a class-action lawsuit against them for alleged sexual assault on minors.
      The Quebec Court of Appeal on Monday granted them the right to appeal a judgment authorizing the class action, handed down in February by Justice Chantal Corriveau of the Superior Court.
      At the heart of the class action is whether the church failed to protect its members when they tried to denounce sexual abuse.
      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 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, Lisa 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.
      In seeking leave to appeal Corriveau’s judgment, Watch Tower Canada described the decision as “unprecedented in Quebec.” The alleged assaults did not take place in an institutional setting, the organization noted, and it was not leaders or employees of the religious organization who allegedly committed the acts.
      The Quebec Court of Appeal found that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ arguments deserve to be further assessed. Jehovah’s Witnesses will now have to plead their case before the Court of Appeal, at a date yet to be determined.

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has categorically condemned the arrests of Jehovah’s Witnesses and demanded that Russia immediately free the worshippers. On May 29, 2019, the opinion of the special UN investigative body was rendered in the case of Dmitriy Mikhaylov v. Russia. The arrest of Dmitriy Mikhaylov, from Shuya (Ivanovo Region), was found to be religious discrimination. The document stresses that the “findings in this opinion apply to all others in the situations similar to that of Mr. Mikhaylov.” We publish the whole document in Russian.

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

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

      The at least 40 female and 149 male Jehovah's Witnesses all face possible prosecution under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1 ("Organisation of"), or Part 2 ("Participation in") ("the activity of a social or religious association or other organisation in relation to which a court has adopted a decision legally in force on liquidation or ban on the activity in connection with the carrying out of extremist activity"), or Part 1.1 ("Inclination, recruitment or other involvement of a person in an extremist organisation"), as well as Criminal Code Article 282.3, Part 1 ("Financing of extremist activity").

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      In a case launched in June 2016 before the nationwide ban, in December 2018 Arkadya Akopyan, was initially found guilty under Criminal Code Article 282, Part 1 ("Actions directed at the incitement of hatred [nenavist] or enmity [vrazhda], as well as the humiliation of an individual or group of persons on the basis of sex, race, nationality, language, origin, attitude to religion, or social group") for allegedly giving "extremist" sermons and giving out banned literature. The prosecution produced apparently false witnesses in the case. But Akopyan was later acquitted in connection with the partial decriminalisation of this offence.
       
      Trial underway, two more trials imminent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      ==================================================
       
      - Pre-trial Detention

      Ivanovo - Furmanovo

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

      Kemerovo

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

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

      Khabarovsk

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

      Kirov

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

      Krasnoyarsk – Sharypovo 

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

      Mordoviya – Saransk 

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

      Novosibirsk

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

      Primorye – Spassk-Dalny

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

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

      Primorye – Vladivostok

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

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

      Rostov-on-Don

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

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

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

      Smolensk

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Stavropol – Neftekumsk 

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

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

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

      Tomsk

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

      Volgograd

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

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

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

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

      ==================================================
       
      - Pre-trial Detention ordered in absentia

      Oryol

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

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

      ==================================================
       
      - House Arrest

      Kemerovo – Berezyovsky 

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

      Kirov

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

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

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

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

      Khabarovsk

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

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

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

      Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region – Uray 

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

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

      Krasnoyarsk

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

      Novosibirsk

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

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

      Penza

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

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

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

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

      Primorye – Spassk-Dalny

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

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

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

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

      Smolensk

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

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

      Tatarstan – Naberezhniye Chelny

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

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

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

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

      Ulyanovsk

      28) Sergei Aleksandrovich Mysin, born 21 June 1965 – arrested on 27 February 2019; detained on 28 February 2019; put under house arrest on 23 April 2019; charged under Article 282.2, Part 1; added to Rosfinmonitoring List on 6 May 2019
      Read more: 
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