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Russia Escalates War on Christians with More Jehovah’s Witnesses Arrests

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Russian authorities have detained a man in western Siberia “on suspicion of setting up a cell” of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious group, considered an “extremist” organization under Russian law, state-run news agency TASS reported on Wednesday.

Police detained the man recently in Seversk, a town in western Siberia’s Tomsk region. Investigators say the man and others affiliated with Jehovah’s Witnesses “organized meetings in 2017-2020, disseminated ‘extremist’ literature, and recruited new members” to the organization.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Russian Investigative Committee’s press service said:

Investigators of the Russian Investigative Committee in the Tomsk Region based on the case files of the Federal Security Service and the Internal Affairs Ministry in the Tomsk Region opened a criminal case into … the activities of an extremist organization in the city of Seversk… The alleged organizer of the extremist organization’s activities was detained. He has been charged, the issue of choosing a restriction measure against him is being decided.

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    • By Srecko Sostar
      3) We do not lobby, vote in political elections, run for government office, or try to change governments. …Otherwise, how could we have a clean conscience when we preach the good news that only God’s Kingdom can solve mankind’s problems? source: 
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      lobby verb [ I or T ]  UK  /ˈlɒb.i/ US  /ˈlɑː.bi/
      C2 to try to persuade a politician, the government, or an official group that a particular thing should or should not happen, or that a law should be changed:

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      Recent example how WT Company and JW members participated in "lobbying" was writing letters to Russian Government and their politicians. 
    • By ARchiv@L
      The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses wants to heighten attention to this critical situation,” states David A. Semonian, a spokesman at the Witnesses’ world headquarters
       
    • By Isabella
      Acourt in Russia has convicted and fined a Jehovah's Witnesses follower amid growing global concern over a campaign of persecution in the country against adherents of the religion.
      Russia's Supreme Court ruled the religion as an extremist organization in April 2017 and since then, the group has complained that authorities have raided more than 1,000 properties of its followers. There are 372 believers under criminal investigation and 43 people are in prison—including 10 who have been convicted of extremism.
      Yevgeniy Spirin, 34, had spent 160 days in pretrial detention and had been under house arrest from July 5, 2019, before his sentence was handed down on Tuesday on charges of organizing the activities of an extremist organization.
      The Furmanovsky City Court in the Ivanovo Region convicted Spirin and fined him 500,000 Russian rubles ($6,920). Spokesman for the Jehovah's Witnesses, Jarrod Lopes, said the conviction was "in complete disregard for the religious freedom enshrined in Russia's Constitution."

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    • By Isabella
      The United Kingdom remains deeply concerned about the situation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Russian Federation. As we said on 12 March, the ruling of the Russian Supreme Court in July 2017, which rejected the appeal against the decision to categorise Jehovah’s Witnesses as “extremists”, criminalised the peaceful worship of 175,000 Russian citizens and contravened the right to religious freedom that is enshrined in the Russian Constitution, and in multiple OSCE commitments.
      It is with deep regret that we learned that on 13 July, 110 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses were simultaneously searched by Russian authorities in the cities of Voronezh and Stary Oskol. Thirteen Jehovah’s Witnesses were detained at the time and two individuals were reportedly beaten during a home search.
      The total number of homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses that have been searched by Russian law enforcement authorities now stands at over 1,000. As we noted in March, home raids are often conducted in the early hours of the morning by large numbers of masked and armed police.
      We repeat our concern that the increasing number of searches, as well as use of simultaneous large-scale home raids, creates the impression of an organised campaign of persecution against Jehovah’s Witnesses.
      So-called “evidence” used against those investigated and prosecuted includes regular aspects of communal religious life. We again remind the Russian Federation of our extensive commitments on freedom of religion or belief, including from Vienna 1989, as well as Kyiv 2013, where States committed to:
      Fully implement their commitments to ensure the right of all individuals to profess and practice religion or belief, either alone or in community with others, and in public or private, and to manifest their religion or belief through teaching, practice, worship and observance, including through transparent and non-discriminatory laws, regulations, practices and policies;
      For three years now, the delegation of the Russian Federation has assured the Permanent Council that individual Jehovah’s Witnesses are able to practice their religion at home, as no permission is required to pray in Russia. However, we have witnessed time and again that any manifestation of their faith by Jehovah’s Witnesses can result in the search of their homes, lengthy detention, criminal prosecution and imprisonment.
      We again call on the Russian Federation to end the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and to uphold the commitments on the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief for all individuals across the Russian Federation.

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    • By Isabella
      The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom publishes a document against Russian anti-cultist Alexander Dvorkin and his organization FECRIS, both supporters of religious persecution in China.
      On July 17, 2020, the USCIRF, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, unveiled a new document, whose title is “The  Anti-cult  Movement  and Religious  Regulation in Russia and the Former Soviet Union.” The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). Its Commissioners are appointed by the President and by Congressional leaders of both political parties. 
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      Second, Dvorkin, as the USCIRF report notes, has been active internationally as vice-president of a transnational anti-cult organization known as FECRIS, the European Federation of Research and Information Centers on Sectarianism. FECRIS is also notorious for the support several of its members, in addition to Dvorkin, have offered to the CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong in China. In turn, the CCP’s Anti-xie-jiao association has advertised and republished reports by the FECRIS against the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other groups. The more one investigates, the more one discovers a two-way relationship between FECRIS (and Dvorkin) and Chinese organizations who promote and justify the bloody persecution of Falun Gong, The Church of Almighty God, and other religious movements.
       
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    • By Isabella
      As part of the case, ten people are suspected of running a local religious organization affiliated with Jehovah’s Witnesses
      VORONEZH, July 15. /TASS/. The Leninsky District Court in the Central Russian city of Voronezh ruled to place in custody until September members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization, outlawed in Russia, the court’s press service said on Tuesday.
      "The court has chosen a pretrial custody for 1 month and 22 days, or until 03.09.2020 <...> as a measure of pretrial restraint for the individuals suspected of extremist activity," the statement says.
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      The suspects are aged between 24 and 56. They were detained after more than 110 searches, during which large amounts of books and other prohibited printing works were seized.
      On April 20, 2017, the Russian Supreme Court declared Jehovah’s Witnesses and all affiliated regional organizations an extremist organization. The organization’s activities are outlawed in Russia.

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    • By Isabella
      Russian authorities armed with assault rifles raided 110 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Voronezh Region on July 13, 2020, according to an official press release by the Voronezh Region Investigative Committee. This is the largest series of raids conducted in one day on Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern Russia. Preliminary reports from my colleagues indicates that at least two Witnesses were beaten.
      Some Witnesses reported that when the officers stormed into their houses to conduct the searches, they would force people to the ground and press their faces to the floor. Additionally, the law enforcement officers did not wear masks or take any precautions against the spread of COVID-19.
      Jarrod Lopes, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, states: “This month, the total number of Witnesses’ homes raided has surged to over 1,000 since 2017. For reasons passing understanding, heavily armed officers—as if being deployed for combat—are storming into the homes of peaceful Christians, many of whom are elderly. Human rights advocates and international judicial bodies continue to publicly condemn Russia for targetting Jehovah’s Witnesses. We hope Russian leaders will halt the persecution and uphold the freedom of religion and belief that is enshrined in its Constitution.”
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    • By Isabella
      Article 6 of the Russian Constitution states that individuals cannot be stripped of their citizenship. Kim (and, more recently, two jailed Jehovah's Witnesses), however, was deprived of his Russian citizenship on the basis of an amendment to Article 22 of the 2002 Citizenship Law which entered legal force on 1 September 2017.
       
      Article 22 states that citizenship can be annulled if it was awarded on the basis of forged documents or "false information". The 2017 amendment added that conviction under particular articles of the Criminal Code, including Article 282.2 ("Organising" or "Participating in the activities of a banned extremist organisation", with which Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslim readers of Nursi's works are most commonly charged) and Article 282.3 ("Financing extremist activity", with which many Jehovah's Witnesses have also been charged), is taken as equivalent to knowingly presenting false information in a citizenship application.

      As a result, therefore, authorities may annul the citizenship of a person who has been found guilty of one of these offences, and who acquired Russian citizenship by naturalisation (rather than by birth).

      "This law on the annulment of citizenship is vicious," Alexander Verkhovsky, Director of the SOVA Centre for Information and Analysis, commented to Forum 18 from Moscow on 8 July. "It assumes that the person, when applying for citizenship, was already going to undermine the constitutional order, and in this sense gave false information about themselves, and therefore the decision to grant citizenship is invalid."

      Verkhovsky pointed out that a person then could change their views over time. "They might not even have imagined that their views imply a change to the constitutional order," he added.
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    • By Isabella
      In the third jailing in Russian-occupied Crimea on "extremism" charges to punish the exercise of freedom of religion and belief, Jehovah's Witness Artyom Gerasimov was jailed for six years after a prosecutor appealed against an earlier fine. Jailed earlier were Muslim Renat Suleimanov for four years and Jehovah's Witness Sergei Filatov for six years. Like Suleimanov and Filatov, Gerasimov expects to be sent to a prison in Russia.
      For the third time, a court in Russian-occupied Crimea has jailed an individual on "extremism" charges to punish the exercise of freedom of religion or belief. After an appeal by the prosecutor, on 4 June Crimea's Supreme Court changed the punishment imposed on 35-year-old Artyom Gerasimov from a fine of two years' average wages to a six-year jail term. He was arrested in the courtroom. He was the second Crimean Jehovah's Witness to be jailed.
       
      The decision to make prisoner of conscience Gerasimov's punishment harsher without sending the case for a retrial is the first such instance in any Jehovah's Witness case in Crimea, or in Russia within its internationally recognised borders.

      The first such jailing for exercising freedom of religion and belief was Muslim prisoner of conscience Renat Suleimanov. In January 2019 a Simferopol court jailed him for four years on "extremism"-related charges for meeting openly in mosques with three friends to discuss their faith.
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    • By Isabella
      Today the Crimean Supreme Court sentenced Artem Gerasimov to six years in prison for his peaceful Christian worship as one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
      He was seeking acquittal from his original sentence by the Yalta City Court, which was a fine for 400,000 rubles.
      Today's ruling immediately came into force and Artem was taken into custody.
      Jarrod Lopes, spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses, states: "Today's ruling by the Crimean Supreme Court brings religious persecution to a new level of cruelty.
      Since the 2017 Russian Supreme Court's ruling that effectively banned Jehovah's Witnesses, this is the first time an appeal has resulted in a more severe punishment.
      This bleak development in Crimea is the latest example of Russia exporting its patently extreme religious intolerance.
      Human rights advocates across the globe have publicly criticized Russia for its baseless attack on Jehovah's Witnesses, internationally recognized as peaceful, societally responsible Christians.
      We hope that senior officials in Russia will soon correct the injustice being doled out in their local courts and that judges in Crimea will follow suit.
      " Artem is the second one of Jehovah's Witnesses to be imprisoned in Crimea under Russian law.
      Artem's new sentence now matches the sentence of Sergey Filatov, who was likewise convicted on March 5, 2020, but by the Dzhankoysky District Court.

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    • By Isabella
      A Russian-controlled ‘court’ in occupied Crimea has rejected the appeal brought by Serhiy Filatov, a 47-year-old Jehovah’s Witness from Dzhankoy, against his six-year prison sentence for practising his faith.  Russia has now not only reinstated Soviet persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but is breaching international law by applying such repressive measures on illegally occupied territory.
      The hearing before ‘judge’ Edward Belousov, of the Crimean High Court, was held on 26 May behind closed doors.  This was due to restrictions over the pandemic but did mean that Filatov, who took part by video link from the SIZO [remand prison] was deprived of the chance to see his family and all those who would have wished to show their support.  
      The closed hearing also makes it unclear whether Belousov made any pretence of examining the appeal.  This seems unlikely since he upheld the manifestly wrongful six-year sentence in a medium security prison colony handed down on 5 March 2020 by ‘judge’ Maria Yermakova, from the Dzhankoy District Court.  The sentence also includes a five-year ban on engaging in educational work involving public addresses or publications in the media or posting information in the media or Internet, as well as a one-year term of restricted liberty after the prison term.  
      Filatov was found to have prayed, together with others, in his own home, which the Russian-controlled prosecutor and court chose to view as “undermining constitutional order and state security”.  He was charged under Article 282.2 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code which punishes for something termed ‘organization of the activities of an extremist organization.”   Russia treats the presumption of innocence with the same contempt it shows religious freedom, and Filatov was swiftly added to Russia’s notorious ‘list of extremists and terrorists’, with this bringing serious economic restrictions.  He was not, however, held in detention, and was taken into custody after the sentence was announced on 5 March.  He has been held at the Simferopol SIZO [remand prison], where the overcrowding, filth and unsanitary conditions are a danger to life and health.  Now that the appeal has failed, he may be moved, in violation this time also of the European Court of Human Rights, to Russia.

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    • By Isabella
      On May 6, 2020, the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention prepared a decision concerning 18 believers in Russia. The Group considers the cases brought against them to be unlawful, urges authorities to immediately release those arrested, in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, and to “take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of their rights.”
      The authoritative UN body considered the complaint of eighteen Russian believers from Volgograd, Kemerovo, Smolensk, Penza, Perm and Novozybkov. Ten of them were arrested and detained in the pre-trial detention center: Andrey Magliv, Igor Yegozaryan, Ruslan Korolev, Vladimir Kulyasov, Valery Rogozin, Valery Shalev, Tatiana Shamsheva, Olga Silayeva, Alexander Solovyov and Denis Timoshin.
      According to 15-page decision No. 10/2020, none of the cases examined had a basis for criminal prosecution and they should all be closed immediately. The cases were brought "only because [the accused] peacefully practised their religious beliefs, including carrying religious texts and the Bible, gathered together in worship services with fellow believers" (para. 67).
      Paragraph 71 of the document states: "All 18 people ... were accused of various forms of 'extremist activity. However, in the Working Group's opinion, none of the activities described can be interpreted as such. Furthermore, no information has been submitted to the Working Group and the Working Group itself cannot establish any reasons that might justify restricting the rights of the 18 individuals concerned under article 18 of the [International] Covenant [on Civil and Political Rights]. The Working Group considers that all the activities in which they participated were a peaceful way of exercising the right to freedom of religion in accordance with article 18 of the Covenant. Such activities were the only basis for the detention and trial of all 18 individuals".
      Paragraph 80 stresses that "the actions of the 18 named individuals were peaceful, and there is no evidence that any of them, or any of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia at all, have ever resorted to violence or called others to violence".
      The decision repeats that there is a "systematic and institutionalized persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses" in Russia (clause 78). The same wording was used in the decision of 1 October 2019 concerning Vladimir Alushkin of Penza and in the decision of 3 May 2019 concerning Dmitry Mikhailov of Shuia (Ivanovo Region). Thus, this is the third opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in relation to Russian Jehovah's Witnesses. In all cases the UN representatives rejected the connection of Jehovah's Witnesses with extremism.
      The Working Group also calls for the release from detention of those detained in pretrial detention facilities, as there is a high risk of COVID-19 contamination with limited medical assistance (para. 84).
      In paragraph 85, the Working Group calls for "a full and independent investigation into the circumstances of the arbitrary deprivation of liberty" of believers and "to take appropriate action against those responsible".
      The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is the body designed to investigate cases of detention that are not in conformity with the international standards set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments. The Working Group is entitled to receive information from the authorities and non-governmental organizations and to meet with detainees and their families in order to establish the facts. The Working Group presents its findings and recommendations to Governments as well as to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Although the decisions of the Working Group are not binding on States, they may contribute to weakening the position of the authorities in a context of wide international publicity.
      According to the legal position of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation as expressed in Decision No. 1276-O of 9 June 2015, the Russian Federation, as a State governed by the rule of law, cannot ignore, without avoiding the legal consequences, the decision of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention containing conclusions on the arbitrary detention and criminal prosecution of citizens.

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    • By Isabella
      Of the 87 Jehovah's Witnesses on trial in 39 cases for "continuing the activities of a banned extremist organisation" for exercising freedom of religion or belief, 85-year-old Yelena Zayshchuk is the oldest. Five fellow defendants in her case are in their sixties or seventies. All face up to six years' imprisonment if convicted. Two defendants in their sixties died in April before trials began.
      At least 18 of the 87 Jehovah's Witnesses on trial on charges of "continuing the activities of a banned extremist organisation" for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief are in their sixties, seventies or eighties. Another defendant died in Kirov in April shortly before the first full hearing was due in his trial. Another man died in Smolensk in April after investigators submitted the case against him to prosecutors and before it reached court. Both those who died were in their sixties.
       
       
      The oldest defendant is 85-year-old Yelena Zayshchuk, whom the FSB security service took in for questioning after raiding her home in Vladivostok in April 2018. Her family "do not understand why they are persecuting an elderly and sick person who has done nothing wrong to anyone", Jehovah's Witnesses commented (see below).

      Among the other six on trial with Zayshchuk is Nina Purge, who is due to be 80 on 19 June. Four of the other defendants are women in their sixties or seventies. The Judge has sent the case back to prosecutors (see below).

      Yury Geraskov, who died in Kirov at the age of 64, had not spent any time in detention, but "stress connected with persecution for his faith had negatively affected Yury's health", Jehovah's Witnesses noted (see below).

      Viktor Malkov, who died in Smolensk at the age of 61, had spent eight months in detention and nearly four months under house arrest. He had suffered from coronary heart disease and kidney problems. "Viktor's health was largely influenced by poor conditions in pre-trial detention centres and the stress associated with criminal prosecution", Jehovah's Witnesses noted (see below).

      Sergey Mysin is on trial in Ulyanovsk despite serious health concerns. Jehovah's Witnesses say he was discharged early from intensive care in October 2019 after FSB security service officers went to the hospital to insist on his treatment being stopped. The Ulyanovsk Region FSB refused to answer any questions from Forum 18 on the incident (see below).

      Two of the other defendants are men who have already been convicted in another, overlapping trial (see below).

      Despite the coronavirus pandemic, there is no sign of early release, however, for those Jehovah's Witnesses currently in pre-trial detention. Several are worried about the danger of contracting the disease (see below).

      The Moscow-based Public Verdict human rights group warns of poor conditions in Russian prisons, such as "overcrowding, poor ventilation, lack of medical staff, poor medical care, and serious health problems, including chronic conditions and lowered immunity among inmates and staff alike" (see below).

      Nina Purge
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    • By Isabella
      Aleksandr is married, has two daughters and eight grandchildren. He has two accreditations. He mastered the trades of lathe worker, forging and manufacturing; worked as a lumberjack and as an engineer. Having become a Christian, Aleksandr Ivshin refused to participate in military training. Now he is under persecution as an ”extremist.”

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    • By Isabella
      More than 4,000 prisoners of concentration camps wore purple triangles on their chests. Because of their faith, they refused to salute Hitler, pick up weapons and fight. On the 75th anniversary of the liberation, the peace-loving Jehovah’s Witnesses are again in prison, this time in Russia. How did the liberating country become an oppressor?

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    • By Isabella
      According to data on May 4, 2020, Feliks Makhammadiyev, who had a damaged lung, is recovering in the prison hospital; the threat to life has passed. Believers Budenchuk, Miretskiy, Gridasov and German also report feeling better. They are forced to work ten hours a day.

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    • By Isabella
      According to tabulations April 20, 2020, three years after the liquidation of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ communities, 332 people became victims of criminal prosecution, 166 of these undergoing imprisonment. These are honest, non-drinking workers: teachers, builders, firefighters, accountants, lawyers. Authorities ruin their career, paralyze their life.

      From left to right, top to bottom: Galina Dergacheva, Sergey Loginov, Igor Trifonov, Galina Parkova, Vitaliy Popov, Elena Nikulina, Dmitriy Vinogradov, Maksim Amosov

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    • By Isabella
      In the morning of April 29, 2020, groups of armed security forces invaded at least seven homes of residents of Pavlovskaya and Kholmskaya villages for searches and interrogations, exposing believers to the risk of infection during the pandemic. A 62-year-old believer was taken to Krasnodar for interrogation, and a written recognizance not to leave the place was taken.

      Illustrative photo

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    • By Isabella
      The April 1st verdict to the believer — a husband and father of two children — provides a list of material evidence by which one can judge the nature of his ‘crime’: “Religious cards; religious games; envelope with religious pictures; Bible domino; folder with Bible comics; box with postcards.”

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    • By Isabella
      The Prosecutor General’s Office of Belarus has refused to extradite a Jehovah’s Witnesses follower, Nikolai Makhalichev, to Russia. He was released from custody, human rights organization Human Constanta said on Facebook.
      A Russian national and member of the Jehovah's Witnesses religious group, Makhalichev has spent 40 days in custody in Belarus. Human rights activists hope that the Belarusian authorities will give the Russian a refugee status or asylum, after which he will be able to live in safety.
      Nikolai Makhalichev, 36, was detained on February 21 in the town of Haradok, Viciebsk region. He was told that Russia had put him on an interstate wanted list because he belonged to a banned religious community.

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    • By Isabella
      PRISONS ARE fecund incubators for coronavirus — people in tight proximity, surfaces easily contaminated, closed internal spaces, poor hygiene and lack of medicines. For those around the world who have been thrown into jails for their beliefs, the pandemic could become a death sentence. Prisoners everywhere must be protected from the virus on humanitarian grounds, and political prisoners ought to be freed now so they do not die for their words and convictions.
      In Kyrgyzstan, journalist Azimjon Askarov is ill. Let him go. Iran must release Iranian American businessman Siamak Namazi, held for more than four years in Evin prison. In Russia, the political prisoners include 26 Jehovah’s Witnesses in pretrial detention and eight in penal colonies. They should not face a covid-19 death sentence for their religious beliefs. In Venezuela, the “Citgo 6” have been recently moved from house arrest to prison. They are six oil company executives — five U.S. citizens and one permanent resident — arrested and detained in 2017. They must be released.

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    • By Isabella
      On March 20, 2020, the investigator D. Melnikov opened another criminal case under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation against local resident Tatyana Kulakova. Criminal investigations are under way against her husband and eldest son, Dmitriy. The youngest of the Kulakov family, Yevgeniy, for reasons of conscience, asks to replace his military service with alternative civilian service (ACS). However, the authorized bodies unreasonably deny his request, threatening criminal prosecution for “evading military service.”

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    • By Isabella
      67-year-old Yuriy Krutyakov was arrested on March 4, 2020, on suspicion of extremism. Now he is placed in the Moscow pre-trial Detention Center No. 4, a special unit for particularly dangerous criminals. Yuriy suffers from a number of serious diseases, having undergone several operations. Meanwhile, Yuriy was deprived of the Bible. His copy of the Holy Scriptures was withdrawn for verification; until now, the book has not been returned.

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    • By Isabella
      A Russian court has overturned the convictions of six Jehovah’s Witnesses accused of extremism, marking the first instance of the group's worshippers having their verdicts overturned in Russia, the group announced Wednesday.
      The court in Penza, some 550 kilometers southeast of Moscow, handed five adherents suspended two-year prison sentences in December. The sixth worshipper, Vladimir Alushkin, was jailed for six years after an investigation had shown that he had continued to run the local Jehovah’s Witnesses branch despite the group being outlawed in Russia.
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      Vladimir Alushkin, a Jehovah's Witnesses member who in December was jailed for six years, has been released after his conviction on extremism charges was overturned.
    • By Isabella
      On the afternoon of 3 March 2020, a court in the southern Crimean town of Yalta is expected to issue its verdict in the "extremism"-related criminal case of Jehovah's Witness Artyom Gerasimov. The prosecutor has demanded a general regime jail term of six and a half years, plus one year of restrictions on freedom and a three-year ban on unspecified activity (see below).

      On the morning of 5 March, the District Court in the northern Crimean town of Dzhankoi is expected to issue its verdict in the "extremism"-related criminal case of another Crimean Jehovah's Witness, Sergei Filatov. Closed hearings on 25 and 28 February heard the final speeches in the case. The prosecutor has demanded a strict regime jail term of seven years (see below).

      If either Gerasimov or Filatov is convicted, they would be the first Jehovah's Witnesses convicted in Russian-occupied Crimea to punish them for exercising freedom of religion or belief (see below).

      Two other Jehovah's Witnesses in Russian-occupied Crimea face "extremism"-related criminal charges. Russian security forces again raided the home of one of them on 13 February. An FSB security service present during the raid put the phone down as soon as Forum 18 asked why it had been launched (see below).

      Meanwhile, the FSB security service Investigator has three times refused to grant permission for Oleg Prikhodko to receive a pastoral visit in Simferopol Investigation Prison from Archbishop Kliment, of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The Investigator initially refused because the Church does not have Russian registration. His third refusal claimed such a pastoral visit might harm the investigation (see below).
       
      Read more: 
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    • By Isabella
      WASHINGTON (RNS) — Russia’s human rights record, including its history of mistreating religious minorities, is worsening, according to testimony at a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday (Feb. 27).  
      “Unfortunately, the human rights situation in Russia continues to deteriorate, and just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., co-chair of the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights, at the hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building.
      Elizabeth Cassidy, director of research and policy at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said Russia’s “malign activities around the globe are clearly evident, yet its systematic, ongoing, egregious repression of religious freedom is less well known.”
      “The Russian government maintains, frequently updates and enforces an array of laws that restrict religious freedom,” Cassidy added.  
      She said Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were banned as “extremist” by the Russian government in 2017, are “among the groups most brutally targeted under these laws in recent years,” as praying, preaching and dissemination of materials outside designated places of worship are often prohibited.
      As of the day of the hearing, the Jehovah’s Witnesses report that 35 of their members are in prison, 25 are under house arrest and 29 have been convicted in Russia.
      “These violations are escalating, spreading through the country and even across its borders,” Cassidy said.

      Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., left, co-chair of the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights, talks with Elizabeth Cassidy, center, and Melissa Hooper after a human rights hearing Feb. 27, 2020, at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

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    • By Isabella
      On February 21, 2020, in the Republic of Belarus, police officers detained Russian citizen Nikolay Makhalichev, 36. Checking his documents, they declared he was wanted by the Russian authorities since he was professing a banned religion. Three days later the prosecutor sent him to pre-trial detention facility SIZO-2 in Vitebsk, Belarus.

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    • By Isabella
      Authorities in Russia’s Far East have charged eight Jehovah’s Witnesses with extremism earlier this month, bringing the number of worshippers facing criminal prosecution there to 22, the religious organization said Tuesday.
      Birobidzhan, a city in the Jewish autonomous district, was among a handful of cities to label the Jehovah’s Witnesses as an “extremist” group in 2016. A year later, Russia’s Supreme Court declared the religious group to be “extremist” and banned its estimated 400 branches across the country.
       

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    • By Isabella
      On February 6, 2020, in Orenburg, officers of Penal Colony No. 1 beat believers Budenchuk, German, Gridasov, Makhammadiyev, and Miretskiy with clubs and legs. As a result, one of them, Feliks Makhammadiyev, was hospitalized. The rest were falsely charged and sent to a punishment cell.
      Believers were beaten upon admission to a penal colony located in the Krymsky lane, Orenburg. The next day, the doctors examined them. Only after Feliks Makhammadiyev wrote a document stating that he had “hit himself in the toilet” was an ambulance called in. He was hospitalized, underwent surgery, and a drainage tube was inserted into his lung to drain the fluid. Among other things, the tests showed that Makhammadiyev’s body was starving (he suffers from gluten intolerance, and the colony’s staff members had taken away his prescribed special food). The remaining believers were sent to a punishment cell on false accusations, for example, “for smoking in the wrong place.” (Jehovah's Witnesses do not smoke for religious reasons.)

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    • By Isabella
      Late in the evening of February 10, 2020, Vadim Kutsenko, 31, was tortured in the forest, leaving him in pain and weakness. Law enforcement officers repeatedly beat and choked him and applied electric shocks to his stomach and leg.
      They demanded that he give them information about other Jehovah’s Witnesses. When the officers realized that Vadim Kutsenko would not divulge any information, they took him to the investigator’s office for further interrogation. He remains in custody. On February 15, 2020, the Ingodskiy District Court will determine what, if any, restrictions they will impose on him.
      The condition of other detained Jehovah’s Witnesses, Sergey Kirilyuk, and Pavel Mamalimov, is unknown.
      The Trans-Baikal Territory is the territory where during the Stalinist repressions Jehovah's Witnesses were massively exiled to a special settlement. Believers were later rehabilitated and recognized as victims of political repression.
      A year ago, on February 15, 2019, seven peaceful Jehovah's Witnesses in Surgut were tortured with electric shocks, suffocation, and beatings. Under torture, investigators forced them to answer questions about their religion and fellow believers. According to the messages of believers, an investigation is under way.

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    • folens  »  Eric Ouellet

      Bonjour Eric, merci pour cet exposé sur Hanna, Bonne journée. Michel
      ENTRETIEN AVEC DIEU.pptx
      · 1 reply
    • Eric Ouellet

      LA FOI D'HANNA ENVERS DIEU APPORTE SA RÉCOMPENSE
      UNE femme de foi adresse une prière à Jéhovah. Convaincue que c’est Dieu qui l’a relevée de la poussière, transformant son abattement en exultation, elle le loue à haute voix.
      Cette femme, c’est Hanna. Qu’est-ce qui explique son spectaculaire changement d’état d’âme ? Pourquoi est-elle à présent si joyeuse ? En quoi ce qu’elle a vécu peut-il nous être utile ? Intéressons-nous à son histoire.
      Une famille sous pression
      Hanna est l’une des deux femmes d’Elqana, un Lévite de la région d’Éphraïm (1 Samuel 1:1, 2a ; 1 Chroniques 6:33, 34). Bien que n’entrant pas dans le dessein originel de Dieu pour l’humanité, la polygamie est autorisée et réglementée sous la Loi mosaïque. Elle est néanmoins une source fréquente de discorde. La vie de cette famille, qui pourtant adore Jéhovah, en témoigne.
      Hanna est stérile, tandis que Peninna, l’autre femme d’Elqana, a plusieurs enfants. Peninna se comporte en rivale. — 1 Samuel 1:2b.
      Pour une Israélite, la stérilité est un déshonneur, et même un signe de la défaveur divine. Mais, dans le cas de Hanna, rien n’indique que son incapacité de procréer soit liée à la désapprobation de Dieu. Peninna ne la console pas pour autant ; elle se prévaut au contraire de son statut de mère pour l’humilier.
      Au sanctuaire de Jéhovah
      Malgré ces tensions, la famille entreprend le voyage annuel en direction du sanctuaire de Jéhovah, à Shilo, pour y offrir des sacrifices. L’aller-retour de quelque 60 kilomètres se fait vraisemblablement à pied. Cet événement doit être particulièrement pénible pour Hanna. En effet, Peninna et ses enfants reçoivent plusieurs portions du sacrifice de communion, alors que Hanna, elle, n’en reçoit qu’une seule. Peninna trouve là une opportunité supplémentaire de la blesser et de la mettre dans l’embarras ; il semble que Jéhovah ait “ fermé sa matrice ”, et elle ne manque pas de le lui rappeler. Tous les ans, c’est le même calvaire. Tous les ans, Hanna pleure et cesse de manger. Ces voyages qui normalement devraient la mettre en joie la plongent dans une profonde détresse. Hanna se rend néanmoins chaque année au sanctuaire de Jéhovah. — 1 Samuel 1:3-7.
      Voyez-vous en quoi Hanna est un bel exemple ? Comment réagissez-vous lorsque vous êtes déprimé ? Vous isolez-vous et évitez-vous les contacts avec vos compagnons chrétiens ? Ce n’est pas ce qu’a fait Hanna. Les rassemblements avec les adorateurs de Jéhovah étaient pour elle une habitude de vie. Même face à des circonstances éprouvantes, il devrait en être de même pour nous. — Psaume 26:12 ; 122:1 ; Proverbes 18:1 ; Hébreux 10:24, 25.
      Elqana tente de réconforter Hanna et il l’amène à exprimer ses sentiments profonds. “ Hanna, pourquoi pleures-tu et pourquoi ne manges-tu pas ? Pourquoi ton cœur a-t-il mal ? lui demande-t-il. Est-ce que je ne vaux pas mieux pour toi que dix fils ? ” (1 Samuel 1:8). Peut-être n’a-t-il pas conscience de la malveillance de Peninna. Et peut-être Hanna préfère-t-elle se taire plutôt que de se plaindre. Quoi qu’il en soit, cette femme spirituelle se tourne vers Jéhovah dans la prière pour retrouver la paix intérieure.
      Le vœu de Hanna
      Les sacrifices de communion étaient consommés dans le sanctuaire. Après avoir quitté la salle à manger, Hanna prie Dieu (1 Samuel 1:9, 10). “ Ô Jéhovah des armées, implore-t-elle, si tu ne manques pas de regarder l’affliction de ton esclave et si vraiment tu te souviens de moi, si tu n’oublies pas ton esclave et si vraiment tu donnes à ton esclave un descendant mâle, oui je le donnerai à Jéhovah pour tous les jours de sa vie, et le rasoir ne viendra pas sur sa tête. ” — 1 Samuel 1:11.
      La prière de Hanna est précise. Elle demande un fils, et elle fait le vœu que cet enfant sera toute sa vie un naziréen de Dieu (Nombres 6:1-5). Ce vœu nécessite l’approbation de son mari, et certaines actions ultérieures d’Elqana montrent qu’il approuve l’engagement pris par sa chère femme. — Nombres 30:6-8.
      À cause de la manière dont Hanna prie, le grand prêtre Éli la croit ivre. Il voit effectivement ses lèvres frémir, mais il ne l’entend pas parler. C’est qu’en fait Hanna prie dans son cœur, avec ferveur (1 Samuel 1:12-14). Imaginez ce qu’elle ressent lorsque le grand prêtre l’accuse d’être ivre ! Pourtant, elle lui répond respectueusement. Comprenant alors que Hanna était en train de prier “ dans l’abondance de [son] inquiétude et de [son] dépit ”, il lui dit : “ Que le Dieu d’Israël accorde ta requête. ” (1 Samuel 1:15-17). Sur ces paroles, Hanna s’en va ; elle mange et “ son visage ne par[aît] plus soucieux ”. — 1 Samuel 1:18.
      Que nous enseigne tout cela ? Lorsque nous prions Jéhovah à propos de nos inquiétudes, nous pouvons lui exprimer ce que nous ressentons et lui adresser des requêtes sincères. Si nous avons fait tout notre possible pour résoudre le problème, alors nous devrions laisser les choses entre ses mains. C’est ce qu’il y a de mieux à faire. — Proverbes 3:5, 6.
      Après une prière fervente, il est fréquent que des serviteurs de Jéhovah ressentent une sérénité comparable à celle que Hanna a éprouvée. Voici ce qu’a écrit l’apôtre Paul au sujet de la prière : “ Ne vous inquiétez de rien, mais en tout, par la prière et la supplication avec action de grâces, faites connaître vos requêtes à Dieu ; et la paix de Dieu, qui surpasse toute pensée, gardera vos cœurs et vos facultés mentales par le moyen de Christ Jésus. ” (Philippiens 4:6, 7). Après nous être déchargés de notre fardeau sur Jéhovah, nous devons le laisser s’en occuper. Puis, comme dans le cas de Hanna, il n’y a plus lieu de s’inquiéter. — Psaume 55:22.
      Un fils “ prêté ” à Jéhovah
      Dieu se tourne alors vers Hanna. Peu après, elle porte un enfant. Elle met au monde un garçon (1 Samuel 1:19, 20). C’est l’une des rares fois où la Bible fait état de la responsabilité de Dieu dans la naissance de l’un de ses serviteurs. L’enfant d’Elqana et de Hanna, Samuel, deviendra effectivement le prophète de Jéhovah, un prophète qui jouera un rôle important dans la mise en place de la monarchie d’Israël.
      Il est certain que Hanna parle de Jéhovah à Samuel dès sa petite enfance. Mais oublie-t-elle le vœu qu’elle a fait ? Absolument pas ! “ Dès que le garçon sera sevré, je devrai l’amener ; il devra paraître devant Jéhovah et habiter là pour des temps indéfinis ”, déclare-t-elle. Et en effet, une fois l’enfant sevré — peut-être à l’âge de trois ans ou un peu plus —, elle l’amène au sanctuaire, comme elle l’avait promis. — 1 Samuel 1:21-24 ; 2 Chroniques 31:16.
      Après avoir offert un sacrifice à Jéhovah, Hanna et son mari présentent Samuel à Éli. Hanna tient certainement la main de son petit garçon lorsqu’elle dit à Éli : “ Pardon, mon seigneur ! Par la vie de ton âme, mon seigneur, je suis la femme qui se tenait près de toi, en ce lieu, pour prier Jéhovah. C’est à propos de ce garçon que je priais, pour que Jéhovah m’accorde ma requête, ce que je lui demandais. Et moi, à mon tour, je l’ai prêté à Jéhovah. Oui, tous les jours qu’il sera, c’est quelqu’un de demandé pour Jéhovah. ” Ainsi commence, pour Samuel, une vie au service de Dieu. — 1 Samuel 1:25-28 ; 2:11.
      Le temps passe ; bien sûr Hanna n’oublie pas son fils. Les Écritures relatent : “ Sa mère avait coutume de lui faire un petit manteau sans manches, et elle le lui montait, d’année en année, quand elle montait avec son mari pour sacrifier le sacrifice annuel. ” (1 Samuel 2:19). Hanna prie sans aucun doute pour Samuel. Tous les ans, lorsqu’elle lui rend visite, elle l’encourage à coup sûr à demeurer fidèle dans son service pour Dieu.
      Pendant l’une de ces visites, Éli bénit les parents du garçon. Il déclare à Elqana : “ Que Jéhovah t’assigne une descendance de cette femme, à la place du prêt qui a été prêté à Jéhovah. ” C’est ainsi que le couple est récompensé par la naissance de trois autres fils et de deux filles. — 1 Samuel 2:20, 21.
      Quel formidable exemple pour les parents chrétiens ! Beaucoup de mères et de pères se montrent, eux aussi, disposés à prêter, figurément parlant, leurs enfants à Jéhovah ; en effet, ils les encouragent à entreprendre une forme de service à plein temps, même si cela implique que leur fils, ou leur fille, vive loin d’eux. De tels parents aimants méritent des louanges pour les sacrifices qu’ils font. Jéhovah les récompensera.
      Une prière qui déborde de joie
      Comme Hanna est heureuse, elle que la stérilité affectait tant autrefois ! Les Écritures ne contiennent que peu de prières faites par des femmes. Mais, en ce qui concerne Hanna, elles en rapportent deux. La première expose ses sentiments alors qu’elle est humiliée et affligée. La seconde exprime son exultation et son action de grâces ; elle commence par ces mots : “ Oui, mon cœur exulte en Jéhovah. ” Hanna se réjouit ensuite que ‘ même la stérile ait mis au monde ’. Et elle loue Jéhovah, celui “ qui élève [...], qui relève le petit de la poussière ”. Vraiment, il est celui qui “ de la fosse aux cendres [...] fait remonter le pauvre ”. — 1 Samuel 2:1-10.
      Cet épisode de la vie de Hanna, dont le récit a été inspiré par Dieu, montre que les imperfections, voire la malveillance, des autres peuvent nous blesser. Toutefois, nous ne devons pas permettre à ce genre d’épreuves de nous priver de notre joie de servir Dieu. Jéhovah est, par excellence, Celui qui entend la prière, qui répond aux appels à l’aide de ses fidèles et qui les délivre de l’affliction. Il leur accorde une paix profonde et de nombreuses autres bénédictions. — Psaume 22:23-26 ; 34:6-8 ; 65:2.

      · 0 replies
    • Eric Ouellet

      1 Samuel 2 : 1-10
      Hannah pria Dieu en ces mots:
      Mon cœur se réjouit au sujet de Jéhovah
      ma force grandit grâce à Jéhovah.
      Ma bouche s’ouvre toute grande contre mes ennemis,
      car je me réjouis de tes actes sauveurs.
      Il n’y a personne qui soit saint comme Jéhovah,
      il n’y a personne qui soit comme toi,
      il n’y a pas de rocher comme notre Dieu.
      Arrêtez de parler avec orgueil ;
      que rien d’arrogant ne sorte de votre bouche,
      car Jéhovah est un Dieu qui sait tout
      et il juge les actions avec justice.
      Les arcs des hommes forts sont brisés,
      mais les hommes faibles reçoivent de la force
      Ceux qui mangeaient bien doivent trouver du travail pour avoir du pain,
      mais les affamés ne souffrent plus de la faim.
      La femme stérile a donné naissance à sept fils,
      mais celle qui avait beaucoup de fils est devenue stérile.
      Jéhovah tue et il garde en vie,
      il fait descendre dans la Tombe et il en fait remonter.
      Jéhovah fait devenir pauvre et il fait devenir riche,
      il abaisse et il élève.
      Il relève le petit de la poussière
      et fait remonter le pauvre du tas de cendres
      pour les faire asseoir avec les princes
      et leur offrir une place d’honneur.
      À Jéhovah appartiennent les fondations de la terre ;
      sur elles, il pose le monde
      Il veille sur les pas de ses fidèles,
      mais les méchants seront tués dans l’obscurité,
      car ce n’est pas par la force que l’homme triomphe. 
      Jéhovah anéantira ceux qui combattent contre lui ;
      pour exprimer sa colère, il fera gronder le tonnerre dans le ciel.
      Jéhovah jugera jusqu’aux extrémités de la terre,
      il donnera du pouvoir à son roi et il fera grandir la force de son oint.
       
       
       


      · 1 reply
    • anniemsbelle@gmail.com  »  Queen Esther

      Do you have the print out for the regional convention 
      · 1 reply
    • anniemsbelle@gmail.com  »  Queen Esther

      Do you have the print out for the regional convention 
      · 0 replies
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