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FSB starts detaining Jehovah’s Witnesses on Kola, dozens flee to Finland


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Last April, a ruling by Russia’s Supreme Court banned all Jehovah’s Witnesses organizations throughout the country, arguing the religious group to be extremist.

On Friday, Murmansk regional authorities’ newspaper Murmanski Vestnik reports about raids made by FSB and the National Guard of Russia (Rosgvardia) in Polyarny on the Kola Peninsula.

Two local residents were detained under suspicions of being members of the administrative centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, organizing teaching and meetings where reading of banned religious literature took place. Searches were carried out at six addresses in Polyarny.    

The town is home to a naval yard and several of the diesel-powered submarines and other warships of the Northern Fleet have Polyarny as homeport.

The extremist law banning Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia provides for a maximum sentences of 6 to 10 years in jail.

Meanwhile, a wave of practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses are fleeing Russia. More than a thousand people are now seeking asylum in several European countries, including Finland, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported earlier this winter.

«It all started last summer, and that’s when the first Witnesses sought asylum in Finland, spokesperson Veikko Leininen with the organization’s Finnish branch told the newspaper.

«Many dozens at least are still to come,» he said.

Press adviser Therese Bergwitz-Larsen with the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) can’t go into details about particular reasons for asylum seekers coming to Norway.

«Unfortunately, we can’t say anything in general on the background for reasons to apply for asylum, since the number [from Russia] is so small.»

Statistics from UDI show that 15 persons came from Russia the first three months this year. In 2017, 58 Russian asylum seekers came to Norway.

In Russia, the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses are estimated to about 175,000. That be, before the organization was declared extremist. Viewed with skepticism for denying military service, voting and refusal to take blood, the members are seen as both a threat to themselves, their children and public safety.

Also during Soviet times, the Witnesses were persecuted.   

Human Right Watch recently called on Russian authorities to drop charges against Danish citizen Dennis Christensen adherent for practicing his faith. Christensen has been in pretrial custody for 11 months in the town of Orel. Human Right Watch argues that Russia is a member of Council of Europe and  a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefor is obligated to protect the rights to freedom of religion and association.

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Security forces eliminated in the Murmansk region a cell, «Jehovah’s Witnesses»

Law enforcement officers liquidated in the Murmansk region the nucleus of the organization «Jehovah’s Witnesses» (banned in Russia for extremism), arrested two residents of the Arctic, according to the Investigative Committee of Russia in the messenger «tamtam».

«Polar» cell «Jehovah’s Witness» eliminated in the Murmansk region. In the case of organization of illegal religious groups detained two residents of the Arctic, seized documents and literature», — stated in the message.

The decision of the Supreme court of the Russian Federation of 20 April, the activities of the «Administrative center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia» and included in the structure of the local religious organizations stopped. In its decision, the Supreme court has reflected, that the property of the organization shall be subject to appeal to the property of the Russian Federation.

The Supreme court previously upheld the liquidation of the organization, «Administrative center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia», by recognizing it as an extremist. The Ministry of justice of Russia included «Jehovah’s Witnesses» in the list of organizations liquidated for extremism.

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    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Men are granted waivers from conscription if they can show they are active members of the denomination. All other men must carry out either military or non-military service.
      The Finnish Defence Ministry has set up a panel to reconsider the exemption from conscription granted to members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The non-mainstream Christian denomination urges its members not to participate in military service, even in unarmed roles.
      The ministry said on Friday that it has established a working group to consider revising the legislation that waives Jehovah’s Witnesses’ obligation to perform military service.
      All Finnish men aged 18 to 60 must carry out either military or non-military service. Under current law, a man can be granted a deferment of service for three years at a time as long as he can certify that he is an active member of a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation.
      "Problematic" from equality standpoint
      The Defence Ministry says that previous studies of the issue have found the current practice to be problematic, particularly from the standpoint of equality.
      The legislation on Jehovah’s Witnesses’ conscription was originally passed as a special act before the present constitution came into force.
      The committee is to complete its work by late June.

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    • By The Librarian
      One of them was a 23 year old sister at her witnessing cart, she was stabbed in the throat and died very soon thereafter :
       
      Read more:
       
    • By James Thomas Rook Jr.
      FSB starts detaining Jehovah’s Witnesses on Kola, dozens flee to Finland
      Criminal cases are initiated after FSB and Rosgvardia raided six addresses in the closed navy town of Polyarny.
      ByHello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.
      April 20, 2018
      Last April, a ruling by Russia’s Supreme Court banned all Jehovah’s Witnesses organizations throughout the country, arguing the religious group to be extremist.
      On Friday, Murmansk regional authorities’ newspaper Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. reports about raids made by FSB and the National Guard of Russia (Rosgvardia) in Polyarny on the Kola Peninsula.
       
      Two local residents were detained under suspicions of being members of the administrative centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, organizing teaching and meetings where reading of banned religious literature took place. Searches were carried out at six addresses in Polyarny.  
       
      The town is home to a naval yard and several of the diesel-powered submarines and other warships of the Northern Fleet have Polyarny as homeport.
       
      The extremist law banning Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia provides for a maximum sentences of 6 to 10 years in jail.
      Meanwhile, a wave of practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses are fleeing Russia. More than a thousand people are now seeking asylum in several European countries, including Finland, the newspaper Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. reported earlier this winter.
       
      It all started last summer, and that’s when the first Witnesses sought asylum in Finland, spokesperson Veikko Leininen with the organization’s Finnish branch told the newspaper.  Many dozens at least are still to come, he said.
      Press adviser Therese Bergwitz-Larsen with the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) can’t go into details about particular reasons for asylum seekers coming to Norway.
      Unfortunately, we can’t say anything in general on the background for reasons to apply for asylum, since the number [from Russia] is so small, Bergwitz-Larsen tells the Barents Observer.
      Statistics from UDI show that 15 persons came from Russia the Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. this year. In Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. , 58 Russian asylum seekers came to Norway.
      In Russia, the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses are estimated to about 175,000. That be, before the organization was declared extremist. Viewed with skepticism for denying military service, voting and refusal to take blood, the members are seen as both a threat to themselves, their children and public safety.
      Also during Soviet times, the Witnesses were persecuted.   
      Human Right Watch recently called on Russian authorities to drop charges against Danish citizen Dennis Christensen adherent for practicing his faith. Christensen has been in pretrial custody for 11 months in the town of Orel. Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. argues that Russia is a member of Council of Europe and  a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefore is obligated to protect the rights to freedom of religion and association.
      My note: Russia passed a law in 2015 that basically stated that any CE or ECHR resolution or ruling they disagreed with could be ignored. I think it is a very good idea when governments start rounding up people for gas chambers, concentration or slave labor camps, or prison ... just be somewhere else.
      You may have to abandon everything you and your family ever worked for, with the clothes on your back, but at least when they upholster the living room furniture you left behind ... it won't be with YOUR SKIN.
       
       
       
    • By Bible Speaks
      Russian "Jehovah's Witnesses" seek refuge in Finland
      In 2017, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation recognized the Jehovah's Witnesses as an extremist organization and banned their activities in Russia. Many members of the organization left Russia after this and are trying to obtain asylum abroad. In Finland, "Witnesses" is now one of the largest asylum seekers in the Russian Federation

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    • By The Librarian
      Via Festus...
      The attached picture is historical. The man on left is Ari Hakkarainen, representative of JW in Finland. The woman in middle is reporter Susanna Päivärinta and the lady at right is Josefina Pakomaa who was abused by family friend - a JW - when she was 11. A vicious apostate today. So we have a representative from Branch and an apostate in same picture. Apparently they even shook hands before program. Josefiina and Ari that is. Nevertheless in past "brothers" came to conclusion that she was the guilty one for her own abuse. She had seduced the poor man. So he had to apologise the man and afterwards serve coffee and cookies to him.
      As a responsible journalist Päivärinta gave JW possibility to give their view of what has happened. Ari's interview starts around 18.45 and is full of surprises. In the very beginning Ari says that term "judicial committee is bit misleading" because the purpose of it is to give spiritual support and help. Well why is it called judicial committee then? 
      At 23.45 min Päivärinta asks a question about Josefinas case. Ari says "we are truly sorry that she has had to go through this ordeal..." that is not an official apology but probably a close as society can go. Further he mentions that he has familiarised himself with the case and contra what Josefiina says there was no judicial committee but two elders who had interviewed her. With other words he admits that society keeps files of cases like this.
      But further Ari acknowledges that she is a victim and victims are never requested to be in judicial committee. Somehow I have difficulties to believe in this. Background for this comment might be that few weeks before this program the national broadcasting company in Finland made a big story where several women claimed that JW had required them to be quite what it comes to cases such as Josefiina's.
      Then Päivärinta grills him further and refers to tv-program and asks about other women and their stories. Ari says that "he would like to say that it is not true" but points out that it might have happened in past with individual cases. Right after that he says that reason why society requests to contact juridical department first is that then juridical department can tell parents that "now your first thing to do is to go directly to authorities". But journalist Päivärinta continues and says "Ari I checked the instructions and it does not say go to authorities it says contact branch" Ari then replies "yes but in our publications there has been instructions to contact authorities during a longer period of time", "in what publications?" asks the journalist. "Watchtower" says Ari.
      Please give me that Watchtower's year and date since haven't seen a single WT magazine with that information!
      Then Päivärinta asks "what about these other women should they report these abuse cases to police" and looks like Ari is forced to say "Absolutely. We don't have any interests in covering up these kinds of activities".
      Päivärinta then asks about two witness policy and Ari replies that he would "separate child abuse cases from this since there might not be a single witness". Is that now against what GB recently said in one of the broadcasting? What it comes to two witness rule and rape cases Ari instructs the victim to contact police and if there is a doom from court JWs can rely to that and take it into consideration if the case is to be taken up in congregation.
      "We don't deal with crimes in congregation we deal with sins, police is there for crime investigations" well good if that is the case now but what comes to past I might have a different view. Further Ari denies that there would have ever been a culture of silencing victims but on the contrary a culture of "encouraging the victims to approach authorities" he also ducks Päivarinta's question of giving possible documents to police by referring to confidential information of individuals but he admits that there is a chance that some documents must be given to authorities someday in future.
      Päivärinta further asks if society is going to apologise possible victims "That is a good idea" says Ari but even thought he is more bombarded with the question the best he manages to say is "if there is a convenient opportunity to apologise well why not and if we have ever done something wrong of course we will apologise.." guess there is still no reason to expect JWs of Finland to officially apologise anything. 
      Ari is further asked about shunning and he mentions that if some one just stops attending meetings and going to field service - aka inactive - nothing changes. But with that "little percentage that is either disfellowshipped or has disassociated them selves" according to Ari there are no strict guidelines but it depends of a conscience of an individual meaning some people do shun strictly and some less strictly. "There is now one way" he says. Ari please. That is not true.
      Päivärinta grills him further and quotes WT and refers to Elders Manual and Ari is forced to say "well if you look up this from bible you will see that these guidelines are from bible". Shuure. He then softens the case by claiming that 50% will return. Ari, the figure might be smaller nowadays.
      Päivärinta then suggest that maybe they come back because they miss their family so much and says "Ari do you understand that it is a tough punishment, psychological violence if community rejects you?" Ari compares the situation with someone quitting a job if he/she has become unhappy with it and afterwards talks bad things about it. "Relations do easily become infected in situations like this" is Ari's comment. Ari. Job and family are not comparable. Ari then tells us that he does not shun anybody. He has in previous interviews said that he knows around 20 000 witnesses so somehow I don't buy this.
      Last few minutes Ari and Päivärinta do talk about the wonderful hope of Jehovah's Witnesses. "What happens to me and the other people when badness is wiped away?" asks Päivärinta. "God will determine that. We of course hope that everyone will live in paradise" replies Ari. Wrong answer. You will all die would have been more truthful.
      It is note worthy that Ari Hakkarainen was in this program. Usually society - in Finland - has used Veikko Leinonen but maybe his face has become "burnt" in media. Or maybe it is just too tough nowadays to be in lime light in connection with society since media is starting to ask tough questions. Or maybe Veikko was on vacation.
      Even if you don't understand Finnish you can see that Ari's body language is disturbing. Just take a look at at 25.00 minute when he is asked if society covers up abuse cases.
      Here is the link:

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    • By The Librarian
      A working group from the Ministry of Defence said that Finland's laws exempting Jehovah's Witnesses from military conscription should be abolished.

      The working group presented their report - which proposes that Finland repeal the exemption law - to Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö on Monday.
      Every year in Finland some 20,000 young men take part in the country's mandatory military conscription programme. Instead of serving in the military, young men have the option of carrying out their national service in civilian settings.
      But young Jehovah's Witnesses have had the right to refuse to serve the country - militarily or even in a civilian capacity - since 1987.
      The topic of whether followers of the Christian denomination should be compelled to serve in Finland's military has been debated for years.
      Teemu Penttilä, leader of the defence ministry working group behind the report, said the time to change the law has arrived.
      "The civil service [system] has changed significantly in recent years. For example, religious communities now offer places of employment [in civil service]. There has been a clear societal change," Penttilä said.
      Long history
      Finland has been dealing with this issue for more than a decade. In 2006 a Defence Ministry working group examined the topic but did not reach any conclusions. A similar effort - this time consulting foreign experts - was carried out in 2009 but had similar results.
      Efforts by defence ministers in 2011 and 2013 also failed to reach a solution. The subject re-emerged this year. 
      Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. , the Helsinki Court of Appeal found that permitting male Jehovah's Witnesses to avoid conscription was discriminatory. The implementation of the law protecting Jehovah's Witnesses from conscription more than three decades ago came as a response to criticism Finland received from the UN Human Rights Committee. The committee said it viewed conscientious objectors as prisoners of conscience and accused Finland of not fulfilling its international obligations.
      Before the law changed in the late 1980s, every year dozens of Jehovah's Witnesses were jailed for not complying with conscription laws.
      Increase in total objectors possible
      Jehovah's Witness' spokesperson Veikko Leinonen has previously said Finland's laws on mandatory civil service violate the religious group's authority.
      Leinonen warned that abolishing the exemption would result in a return to the situation before the law was instated, and that members of the church would rather choose to serve jail sentences than serve.
      But the Defence Ministry's Penttilä disagreed, saying that the working group consulted several Jehovah's Witnesses representatives who vowed that no one would be excluded from the church for carrying out civil service duties.
      "We're aware there's a risk the number of 
      Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  may rise. But the working group found that it will not be a significant increase," Penttilä said.
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    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      More than 200 Jehovah's Witnesses - a religious organization banned in Russia - have applied for asylum in Finland. More than 100 members of this organization have arrived in the European country only so far in 2018. According to Juha Simila, representative of the Finnish migration service, about 10 cases have been analyzed so far and, in most of them, Finland rejected the asylum application. Simila explained to the Finnish newspaper Aamulehti that some denials have been appealed to the court and that in one of the cases the negative decision of the migration service has already been confirmed.
      Read more: 
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    • By The Librarian
      The Finnish government has ruled that the current law allowing Jehovah's Witnesses to avoid military service, in place for several decades, is discriminatory and contradicts the constitution.
      In the future, Finnish Jehovah's Witnesses* will be obliged to either serve in the nation's military or perform civil service on the same terms as everyone else, the government ruled, submitting a corresponding proposal to parliament, national broadcaster Yle reported.
      According to the 1987 law, Jehovah's Witnesses were not only freed from the military draft, they were freed of any obligation to perform community service as a pacifist alternative, a common option among other young people in Finland. The Finnish government has decided that this preferential treatment is discriminatory and contradicts the constitution. Repealing the law will allow all religious groups to get equal treatment in terms of conscription, the government's press release said.
      The government proposed a three-month transition period. Those applying for suspension within the three-month period before the new law enters into force shall be allowed to skip military service. After the transition period, exemptions will be no longer granted.
      Abolishing the Jehovah's Witnesses' draft exemption has been considered several times before, in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2013, but nothing came of the discussions. However, the debate was re-kindled this year, when the Helsinki Supreme Court overruled a prison sentence against a conscientious objector who refused to perform community service. The court found it discriminatory to sentence a conscientious objector, when Jehovah's Witnesses don't need to do any military or community service whatsoever.
      "Today we have a kind of two-storied definition of personal convictions. Jehovah's Witnesses enjoy statutory liberation from military service, while others with pacifist convictions don't," former Defense Minister Stefan Wallin, who has long pushed for the abolition of differential treatment, explained.
      Veikko Leinonen, a Jehovah's Witnesses information officer in Finland, said this isn't a "working solution."
      "It's problematic. The belief the Jehovah's Witnesses follow opposes all forms of war and killing," Leinonen stressed. "Ideally, we should keep the system that exists today. It has worked well and does not violate anyone's rights," he added.
      This move is expected to cover some 130 people annually. According to Teemu Penttilä, the leader of the task force behind the investigation, the number of "total objectors" refusing both military service and community service won't rise significantly. In 2017, 33 conscientious objectors were sentenced in Finland.
      The Finnish Defense Forces operate on the principle of universal male conscription, although women are allowed to volunteer and have been availing themselves of this opportunity increasingly. With a peacetime strength of about 16,000 troops, Finland is capable of mobilizing up to 230,000 troops and service personnel within four weeks, making it the largest force in Scandinavia.
      The total number of Jehovah's Witnesses is estimated at about 20,000 in Finland.
      * Jehovah's Witnesses are banned in Russia

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    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      A Finnish court has ruled that the exemption from military service currently enjoyed by Jehovah's Witnesses is discriminatory.
       
      News 23.2.2018 14:34 | updated 24.2.2018 10:53
      Jehovah's Witness exemption from conscription deemed prejudicial in "pivotal" ruling
      A Finnish court has ruled that the exemption from military service currently enjoyed by Jehovah's Witnesses is discriminatory.
      A new court ruled on Friday that the Finnish practice of allowing male Jehovah's Witnesses to avoid conscription is discriminatory.
      The Helsinki Court of Appeal on Friday voted 4-3 for naming the policy discriminatory against other conscientious objectors. The ruling came in a discrimination case brought by a man who was imprisoned in 2016 for refusing conscripted service the year before.
      The decision is the first court verdict that directly denounces the decades-old exception (instated in 1987), which says that men belonging to the Jehovah's Witness denomination will uniquely not be sent to prison if they refuse both military and civilian service.
      The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee and the Defense Ministry have long held that the law contradicts the constitution's principle of equality as well as its prohibition on discrimination.
      Basis in faith
      The majority of the court held that Finland has taken significant measures to improve equality since the exemption became law more than 30 years ago, such as signing the European Convention on Human Rights.
      Under current legislation Jehovah's Witnesses may postpone their entry into service for three years at a time (starting at age 18), until their obligation officially ceases at age 29.
      Proponents of the Christian faction cite their pacifist reading of the Bible as the basis of their objection, for which they receive no punishment. No other groups in Finland have the same right, except women, who have never been legally bound to enter conscripted service.
      "Pivotal" step follows international condemnation
      The Union of Conscientious Objectors (Finnish acronym AKL) tweeted about the news on Friday, calling the court's decision "pivotal" in the process towards banning conscription altogether.
      Robin Harms, a senior advisor to the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, has acted as legal counsel to the imprisoned man who originally brought the case to the Eastern Uusimaa District Court in 2015.
      "Favouring Jehovah's Witnesses in this way is an embarrassment for Finland," Harms says.
      More than that, human rights organisations including Amnesty International and the UN Human Rights Committee have long chastised the Finnish government for its ongoing practice of forced conscription. Only male (non-Witness) Finns are obliged to choose between military service, a longer civilian service term and a six-month prison (or remote monitoring) sentence.
      AKL reports that an average of some 40 objectors have annually refused both military and civilian service since the beginning of the 21st century. Some 100 Jehovah's Witnesses plead the law of exception to avoid conscription each year. While 72 percent of young men enter military service (minimum 6 months) when called, some 2,000 men opt for a civilian service period (minimum 347 days).
      All men who are jailed for objecting to conscription are considered by Amnesty International to be prisoners of conscience.
      Justice Minister: Consider exemption anew
      Justice Minister Antti Häkkänen said after the verdict that the current exemptions from military service should be evaluated in the light of the verdict.
      "If some group or other has exemptions based on their beliefs, then in this day and age they should always be evaluated to make sure different groups are treated equally," said Häkkänen.
      Häkkänen added that participation in national defence is mandated in the Finnish constitution, and that exceptions to that are based on religious convictions.
      "How are those interests weighed against each other in different situations, especially in a changing world, then that's a big constitutional law question as well," said Häkkänen. "This is an interesting issue that must now be resolved fairly."
      EDIT: This story was edited on 23 February to add comments from the Justice Minister.

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    • By Queen Esther
      REFUGEES,  WITNESSES  IN  FINLAND
      Russian Jehovah's Witnesses who have come to Finland in search of asylum. Also a Finnish presidential candidate mentioned that the highest percentage of asylum seekers in a particular Finnish refugee center at this time are the Russian Jehovah's Witnesses. The immigration office states that 1,000 Russian Witnesses have sought asylum last year and even earlier.
      Apparently, there was systematic harassment of Witnesses in Russia and a law was passed that the Witnesses can lose custody of their children, if it is proved that the children are indoctrinated by their parents.
                         ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
    • By The Librarian
      The immediate response from the branch office after the tragedy provided comfort and reassurance to both Witnesses and non-Witnesses shaken by the event.

      Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. Original news report:
       
    • Guest Kurt
      By Guest Kurt
      The daughter Laila Johansson greets her at least twice a week. Then she often read a piece from the Bible
      Biography
      Helfrid Eriksson was born on 23 June 1908 in Pernå, Southern Finland, Finland. Her father was a bricklayer and her mother a housewife. Helfrid and her sister studied at a girls' school in Helsinki. She married taxi driver Paul Eriksson and they had a daughter and two sons. Her mother and father lived to be 95 years old.

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      Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  
       
    • By Bible Speaks
      In the ministry in Finland. Photo shared by @vera_laaksonen
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Made these as gifts to give to the brothers and sisters in the special convention in Helsinki, Finland.

    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.  
       

    • By Isabella
      Two years ago, Russian activist Vladimir Kara-Murza pointed out that Vladimir Putin’s Russia had more political prisoners than the USSR did when Andrey Sakharov began calling attention to them in the USSR in 1976 (rferl.org/a/activist-number-of-political-prisoners-in-russia-twice-what-it-was-in-ussr/30048022.html).
      In period since Kara-Murza made that calculation, Ellen Leafstedt of St. Antony’s College in Oxford says, the numbers of political prisoners in Russia have only increased and indeed continue to rise. In an article for the Riddle portal, she suggests that it is important to recognize their diversity (ridl.io/ru/nakazanie-bez-prestuplenija/).
      One can divide them into two categories, “people who land in prison for public expression of their political convictions and those who represent minorities who are deprived of their freedom for religious affiliations and convictions. The latter category is the more numerous, Leafstedt says.
      Among the most numerous of the second category are those charged with terrorism for their affiliation with groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir. Rapidly growing in number are Jehovah’s Witnesses whose denomination the Russian Supreme Court declared to be an extremist organization.
      Read more: 
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    • By Isabella
      Russian authorities opened a criminal case this week against five Jehovah’s Witnesses on suspicion of “organizing and participating in the activities of an extremist organization” for allegedly promoting their namesake religious group, which is officially outlawed as an “extremist ideology” in Russia.
      Russia’s Investigative Committee, its main federal investigating body, announced the criminal case in a statement issued March 4.
      Five residents of the city of Syktyvkar, in Russia’s northwestern Komi Republic, allegedly “carried out active organizational actions aimed at continuation of the organization’s illegal activities and the involvement of new participants in it” over a four-year period between 2017 and 2021.
      “In particular, acting in secrecy, they carried out general management of the organization’s activities, coordinated illegal activities, organized and held meetings of members of a banned organization, and collected funds to finance the activities of a banned extremist organization,” according to the statement.
      Read more: 
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    • By Isabella
      RNS) — A female Jehovah’s Witness has been sentenced to two years in a Russian prison for practicing her faith, marking the first time the country has imprisoned a woman since a 2017 ruling that declared the faith group “extremist.” Valentina Baranovskaya, 69, was sentenced Wednesday (Feb. 24) along with her son, Roman Baranovskiy, 46, who received a six-year sentence.
      “Today, Judge Elena Shcherbakova ruthlessly imprisoned a harmless, elderly woman and her son on baseless charges,” said Jarrod Lopes, spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “The ruling was a mockery of the rule of law — both international human rights law as well as Russia’s constitution, which protects religious freedom.”
      In October, a Jehovah’s Witness named Yuriy Zalipayev was acquitted and shortly afterward six other members of the faith were given suspended sentences by a different judge.

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    • By Anna
      In view of last weeks WT study "Do you have the facts" (August 2018, page 3) and thanks to @Gone Away for highlighting the following reports, I thought I would put this in a separate and concise topic to show an actual and recent example of misinformation.
      NEWS REPORT: (I cut it a little short because the article went on about the ban in general. You van read the whole thing here:
      Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. MOSCOW: Five Jehovah's Witnesses have been detained in Russia and charged with possessing weapons and running an extremist group, investigators said Wednesday (Oct 10, 2018), in the latest case targeting the banned religious movement.
      They were arrested in the Kirov region northeast of Moscow, where authorities said they found two grenades and a landmine in searches of their homes.
      The Jehovah's Witnesses are a Christian denomination that originated in the United States in the late 19th century.
      The Russian authorities consider the movement a totalitarian sect and last year the country's supreme court banned the Jehovah's Witnesses from operating in Russia.
      "They had been conducting meetings and called on others to join their organisation," Yevgenia Vorozhtsova, a spokeswoman for regional investigators, said.
      She said officials were investigating how the members of the Jehovah's Witnesses had obtained the ammunition, but declined to provide further details.
      Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a member of the European Association of Jehovah's Christian Witnesses, said it was the first time the Russian authorities had accused members of the movement of possessing ammunition.
      "We were shocked," he said from the Latvian capital Riga. "It is both funny and strange. Why mines?"
      One of those detained was a Polish national residing in Russia, he said.
       
      THE FACTS: (here I took the liberty of slightly adjusting the translation by Google, so it made more sense)
      On October 9, 2018, in the city of Kirov, during a search of the house of retired Vladimir Bogomolov, a collector of artifacts from the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), investigators seized fragments of obviously unusable rusty shells. The man was searched because his 69-year-old spouse (the only one of her entire family) professes the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. The woman does not share her husband's fascination with antiques. Thus, the report that the ammunition was seized allegedly from Jehovah's Witnesses is not true.
      Jehovah's Witnesses do not take weapons for conscience reasons. For this position they appeared before tribunals of different countries and went to concentration camps. They will be grateful to the media for clarifying the misunderstanding .
      Vladimir Bogomolov, from whom the relics were confiscated, was in the past an active participant in a search movement (aimed at burying the remains of the soldiers who died in World War II), he was the brigadier of the search party. The activities of his squad were written about in newspapers. On October 9, 2018, upon the discovery of the artifacts, a criminal case on the illegal possession of weapons was instituted, it was allocated in a separate proceeding. The items were sent for examination.
       Source: 
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    • By Isabella
      Russian authorities have detained and placed under house arrest a Jehovah’s Witness in Siberia amid a continued crackdown on the religious group, which was labeled as extremist and banned in the country in 2017.
      The Investigative Committee said in a statement on February 17 that a 53-year-old resident of the town of Belovo in the Kemerovo region was placed under house arrest on suspicion of organizing a Jehovah’s Witnesses "cell."
      The man, whose identity was not disclosed, refused to cooperate with investigators citing Article 51 of the Russian Constitution, the statement said, adding that the suspect had been apprehended after the homes of several alleged members of the banned group were searched in the region.
      Article 51 states that no one shall be obliged to give incriminating evidence.
      The announcement came a week after a court in Russia's Krasnodar region sentenced a 63-year-old Jehovah's Witness, Aleksandr Ivshin, to 7 1/2 years in prison, the harshest sentence since authorities launched the campaign against the religious group.
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    • By Isabella
      Six Jehovah's Witnesses jailed on "extremism"-related charges applied for early release after serving half their jail terms, but have been unsuccessful. Prison administrations opposed the applications with what Jehovah's Witnesses describe as "fabricated evidence" of violations of prison rules. Four of the prisoners were accused of smoking in the wrong place, but Jehovah's Witnesses do not smoke. Another Jehovah's Witness jailed since 2018 and a Muslim reader of Nursi's works jailed since 2017 should both become eligible to apply in summer 2021.
      Six Jehovah's Witnesses jailed on "extremism"-related charges for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief have so far failed in their applications for early release. On the fourth attempt, a court commuted the rest of Dennis Christensen's jail term to a fine, but this was overturned after prosecutors appealed and he remains in jail. Four jailed Jehovah's Witnesses from Saratov have similarly failed in their appeals for early release, while a fifth is still awaiting a hearing. Read more: Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.
    • By Isabella
      ussian security services raided the homes of several Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow on Wednesday, in an ongoing crackdown on the US-based religious movement.
      Moscow outlawed the Jehovah's Witnesses in 2017, labelling it an extremist organization and has since sentenced several members to lengthy jail terms.
      The Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said on Wednesday several "organizers and members" had been detained.
      Prosecutors, the FSB security services and the national guard carried out searches at 16 addresses, the committee said.
      Investigators said the Jehovah's Witnesses had established a branch in the capital where "secret meetings" were convened to study "religious literature".
      Jarrod Lopes, a New York-based spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses, said the raids "are further proof that Russia is reverting to its muscle memory of Soviet repression".
      He added that they were a new escalation in the crackdown, as most of the raids on the believers had previously taken place in regions outside the Russian capital.

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    • By Isabella
      A court in southern Russia has handed the country's longest prison sentence yet to an elderly Jehovah’s Witness leader for organizing an “extremist” group, the religious organization said Wednesday.
      Authorities accused Alexander Ivshin, 63, of organizing the activities of a banned organization, including hosting Bible discussions with friends via video link, until his April 2020 detention as part of mass raids in the Krasnodar region. Russia outlawed the Jehovah’s Witnesses as “extremists” in 2017.
       
      Alexander Ivshin, 63, was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for activities including hosting Bible discussions via video link.
       

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    • By Isabella
      MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian law enforcement detained a number of Jehovah's Witnesses and conducted searches at 16 different addresses in Moscow on Wednesday as part of a new criminal investigation against the group, state investigators said.
      The Investigative Committee, which handles probes into major crimes, said the people had been detained for organising and taking part in the activities of a banned religious group.
      It said they had met in a flat in northern Moscow and studied the teachings of the religion despite being aware of the ban on the group's activities.
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    • By Isabella
      f 21 Jehovah's Witnesses convicted of "extremism" charges since late July 2020, six were given jail terms and 13 suspended sentences. Receiving a suspended sentence means a convicted person must live under restrictions specified by the judge, regularly register with probation authorities, and avoid conviction for any other offence during the probationary period or risk being sent to prison. "A suspended sentence means that you need to live under stress for many years," Jehovah's Witnesses note.
      A total of 21 Jehovah's Witnesses have been convicted of "extremism" charges since late July 2020. They include the oldest Jehovah's Witness yet to be found guilty of alleged extremism offences (at the age of 73). Among the punishments imposed are both the largest fine and the longest suspended sentences since prosecutions began following the 2017 liquidation of the Jehovah's Witness Administrative Centre.
       
      Six of the 21 have received jail terms. The four defendants in one case in Bryansk Region will not be imprisoned as they had already served the time in pre-trial detention. Two men in another case in Kemerovo Region, however, will spend more than a year in jail if their appeal is unsuccessful.

      Thirteen of the 21 have received suspended sentences, most recently Sergey Ledenyov in Kamchatka on 24 November. The two others were given large fines (see below).

      Although not enough cases have ended to draw any definitive conclusions, it appears that, in 2020, courts have been moving towards suspended sentences for Jehovah's Witnesses, although prosecutors continue to request real prison terms in most cases. It remains unclear why this might be.

      Receiving a suspended sentence means that a convicted person is not imprisoned, but must live under a set of restrictions specified by the judge, regularly register with probation authorities, and avoid conviction for any other offence during the probationary period or risk being sent to prison (see below).

      The 21 individuals convicted since July are among more than 400 Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslim readers of theologian Said Nursi's works who have been convicted, are on trial, or remain under investigation across Russia, mostly on accusations of "organising" or "participating in the activities of a banned extremist organisation".

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    • By Isabella
      Moscow — Russian authorities have carried out dozens of raids and detained several people as they pursue a new criminal case accusing the country's Jehovah's Witnesses of extremism, the national Investigative Committee said Tuesday. The Christian denomination is suspected of illegally resuming its work in Russia despite an official ban.
      The country's Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that the group, founded in the United States and claiming almost 9 million followers globally, was an "extremist" organization and ordered it to disband. The decision led to the conviction of scores of followers across the country.
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    • By Isabella
      UNITED NATIONS, November 18. /TASS/. The Third Committee of the UN General Assembly has Wednesday adopted the Ukraine-sponsored resolution condemning alleged human rights violations in Crimea, as the resolution was supported by 63 countries, 85 abstained and 22 opposed it. The document has been considered annually since 2016 and is not mandatory.
      The resolution in particular calls on Russia "to take all measures necessary to bring an immediate end to all violations and abuses against residents of Crimea." The document notes "discriminatory measures and practices, arbitrary detentions and arrests, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, including to compel apprehended persons to self-incriminate or ‘cooperate’ with law enforcement" among these abuses.
      Moscow is urged "to repeal laws imposed in Crimea by the Russian Federation that allow for forced evictions and the confiscation of private property, including land in Crimea, in violation of applicable international law."
      The resolution also calls on Russia "to respect the right to freedom of religion or belief and guarantee its enjoyment by all residents of Crimea, including but not limited to parishioners of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Muslim Crimean-Tatars and Jehovah’s Witnesses."
       
      Russia’s response
       
      Russia’s deputy permanent envoy Gennady Kuzmin said that "the resolution co-authors had been trying to punish Crimea’s population for their free choice in favor of Russia by shedding "crocodile tears" about Crimeans."
      Full article here: 
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    • By Isabella
      Prisoners of conscience Jehovah's Witnesses Sergei Filatov and Artyom Gerasimov are being denied letters sent to them. Muslim prisoner of conscience Renat Suleimanov is being denied letters sent in his own language of Crimean Tatar. He has been held for ten months in Kamenka Labour Camp's closed zone, in a cell holding 10 prisoners, but may be released in December. All were transferred illegally to jails in Russia.
      One of the three Crimean prisoners of conscience jailed in Russian labour camps for exercising freedom of religion and belief in Crimea is expected to complete his prison term at the end of December, more than three years after his October 2017 arrest. Muslim prisoner of conscience Renat Suleimanov has spent the ten months since January 2020 in the closed zone ("strict detention conditions") of Kamenka Labour Camp in Russia's Kabardino-Balkariya Republic.
       
      "If the labour camp has about 1,000 prisoners, the closed zone has about 10, and they are held all in one cell," relatives of Suleimanov told Forum 18. "It's like a prison within a prison." A labour camp official would not explain why Suleimanov is held in the closed zone (see below).

      Visits from relatives and friends is made difficult by the Russian authorities having moved Suleimanov so far from his home, against the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (known as the Mandela Rules – A/C.3/70/L.3) (see below).

      Letters from relatives have been handed on after being censored, but only if they are in Russian. Letters in the Crimean Tatar language are not given to Suleimanov, but he does have access to a copy of the Koran and can pray openly (see below).

      One of the two cases Suleimanov's lawyer lodged to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is about the illegal transfer to a Russian prison (see below).

      Even once he completes his prison term, Suleimanov will have to live under restrictions for another year, while his bank accounts will remain blocked for many more years (see below).

      "It is difficult for Renat's mother, who is in her eighties," one of Suleimanov's relatives told Forum 18. "She survived the deportation of all the Crimean Tatars [in 1944] and then to have this at the end of her life." She last met her son in a meeting in the Investigator's office in the Crimean capital Simferopol in summer 2018 (see below).

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    • By Isabella
      More than 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been charged or convicted in Russia since the country banned the religious group as an “extremist” organization three years ago, the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia has said.
      Since the April 2017 ban by Russia’s Supreme Court, law enforcement officers raided the homes of 1,166 worshippers’ families, the Jehovah’s Witnesses said
      Authorities have opened 175 criminal cases into “extremism” against worshippers as of late October 2020, with 148 of them still in progress, the Christian denomination said on its website. 
      More than half of the 400 worshippers spent between several days to three years in detention while awaiting trial. Some 310 have lost their jobs, businesses, pensions and bank accounts as a result of the “extremist” label.
      Four Jehovah’s Witnesses have died while under investigation.

      The Jehovah's Witnesses religious group has been banned in Russia as an "extremist" organization since April 2017

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    • By Isabella
      The St. Petersburg prosecutor's office filed a lawsuit demanding that the JW Library application of Jehovah's Witnesses be declared extremist on Google Play and the App Store. This was reported by the press service of city courts.
      The claim was accepted for production by the Oktyabrsky District Court.
      As indicated in the lawsuit, the JW Library publishes literature recognized as extremist in Russia. This application is copyrighted by the Pennsylvania Watchtower and Tract Society. The Russian court considered this organization to be the leading one in relation to Jehovah's Witnesses.
      Application developer - Jehovah's Witnesses ("Jehovah's Witnesses"). The lawsuit noted that the developer's website www.jw.org was banned in Russia and recognized as extremist.
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