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RUSSIAN POLICE CAN NOW CONFISCATE ELECTRONICS OVER ANY POSTS THEY DEEM 'EXTREMIST'


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Russia’s top court has ruled that police can confiscate anyone’s electronics for social media posts they deem “extremist” without criminal prosecution.

Police can impound “any property” of an individual deemed to be an extremist or connected to a terrorist organization, according to the ruling from the Russian Supreme Court. “This property may include cellphones, personal computers, other electronic means of communication,” the resolution reads on the Russian Supreme Court’s website, according to a report from The Moscow Times Thursday.

For perspective, Russia considers a wide range of political and religious dissent as “extremist” views. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination with its world headquarters in New York, was classified last year as “extremist organization”, putting the religious group into the same category as the likes of the Islamic State (ISIS).

Yury Kostanov, a member of Russia’s Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, told Russian media that “there are too many vague formulations in the Supreme Court’s explanations.” He said that the ruling leaves the door open for “the arrest and confiscation of property from an innocent person.”

On Monday, the U.S. State Department issued a statement calling on Russia to release more than 150 prisoners being held for religious or political reasons. Washington urged Moscow to “cease its use of the legal system to suppress dissent and peaceful religious practice.”

In response, the Russian Embassy in the U.S. said: “Members of the American establishment have no moral right to blame Russia and demand that someone be released.” The embassy added that Russia “rejects any attempts of meddling” within internal affairs.

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

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

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      Detention extended without lawyer, appeal refused

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

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

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

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

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

      Ya/S 9/2 Investigation Prison
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      No Bible reading allowed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      By Felix Corley, Forum 18
      In addition to one Muslim on trial in Shymkent, 18 individuals are known to be currently jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief. All are Sunni Muslim men. A further 11 are serving restricted freedom sentences. A further 12 are under post-jailing bans on specific activity. A further 29 who have completed sentences still have their bank accounts blocked.
      As the criminal trial of Sunni Muslim Dilmurat Makhamatov continues in Shymkent, 18 individuals are known to be in jail for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief. All of them are Sunni Muslim men. In addition, a further 11 individuals are known to be serving restricted freedom sentences for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief. All but one of them are Sunni Muslim men.
        Prison at Zarechny, Almaty Region Kazis Toguzbaev (RFE/RL) The individuals or those close to them all deny that they harmed the human rights of others or called for the human rights of others to be harmed.

      Even when sentences are complete, punishment does not stop. A further 12 individuals who have completed prison terms or restricted freedom sentences are still under often vague post-jailing bans on specific activity. This is likely to be an underestimate, as such post-jailing bans are not often made public (see below). 

      Those serving restricted freedom sentences live at home under probation. They can be assigned community work and are banned from leaving the town or changing their job or residence without permission. They can also be banned from visiting locations, like cafes or casinos.

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

      In addition, a further 29 individuals who have completed prison terms or restricted freedom sentences, apparently as well as any possible post-jailing bans, still have access to any bank accounts blocked (see below).

      Individuals jailed on "extremism" or "terrorism" related charges remain on the list for six or eight years after the sentence is completed. The use of undefined terms, such as "extremism" and "terrorism", by officials and in laws, has been strongly criticised by Kazakh human rights defenders and the United Nations Human Rights Committee (see below).

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

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

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

      A large group of those jailed, sentenced to restricted freedom or under other restrictions are Muslims punished on charges of alleged membership of the Tabligh Jamaat Muslim missionary group. Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.

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

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

      Another group are Muslims the Kazakh authorities have had returned from Saudi Arabia, who have been punished for talks or comments on Islam they or others have posted recordings on the internet or otherwise distributed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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        Post-jail bans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      16) Rollan Talgatovich Arystanbekov; Sunni Muslim; born 5 December 1981; arrested November 2016; sentenced 28 June 2017 Atyrau City Court No. 2; Criminal Code Article 405, Parts 1 and 2; appeal rejected 29 August 2017 Atyrau Regional Court; 3 year prison term, plus 2 or 3 year post-prison ban on exercise of religious freedom, plus bank accounts blocked. Expected prison release date: November 2019.

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

      18) Serik Kudaibergenovich Erimbetov; Sunni Muslim; born 12 September 1975; arrested 8 July 2016; sentenced 28 December 2016 Almaty Region's Zhambyl District Court; Criminal Code Article 405, Parts 1 and 2; appeal rejected 28 February 2017 Almaty Regional Court; 3 years' prison, plus fee plus bank accounts blocked. Expected prison release date: July 2019.
        Restricted freedom sentences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      In February, a Russian court sentenced a Danish citizen who was a legal resident of Russia to six years in prison for such an extremist offence as organizing other Witnesses to shovel snow from their church’s property.
      A month later, Sergei Skrynnikov, a Russian and allegedly a Jehovah’s Witness, was charged with “participating in an extremist organization,” an offence under Russian law that could earn him up to six years in prison. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been fleeing Russia and seeking asylum in Germany and Finland to escape such harsh sentences.
      In China, state authorities harass Jehovah’s Witnesses and raid their meetings. Authorities also deport foreign Witness missionaries from countries such as South Korea.
      South Korea has only recently dropped a 2003 law prohibiting conscientious objection to fighting in its armed forces, a law that confined young Witness men — as well as other men — to jail.
      All these states violate international laws that protect religious freedom, including the freedoms of unpopular minorities. Article 18, 1 of the 1976 United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protects everyone’s freedom to “have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice” and “to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”
      A long history of persecution
      Jehovah’s Witnesses were among the first groups the Nazis persecuted. There were about 25,000 to 30,000 Witnesses in Germany in 1933. About half of those who did not flee were convicted of various crimes and between 2,000 and 2,500 were sent to concentration camps, where about 1,000 died. About 250 were also executed.
      Some years ago I met a Jehovah’s Witness in the city where I live who told me the Nazis had beheaded his grandfather. Germany’s Jehovah’s Witnesses were not merely passive religious group that refused to adopt the Nazi ideology: they also actively tried to expose Nazi atrocities.
      In the 1960s and ‘70s in Malawi, entire villages of Jehovah’s Witnesses were burned, and many villagers were raped, tortured or murdered as they tried to flee. Their crime was refusal to participate in rituals of loyalty to the newly independent Malawian state and its president, Hastings Banda.
      The Malawi government denied me a visa in the early 1980s when I told its High Commission in Ottawa that I wanted to know what had happened to these Witnesses for research for my book, Human Rights in Commonwealth Africa.
      Many Witnesses in Rwanda, both Tutsi and Hutu, lost their lives during the 1994 genocide, many trying to hide people at risk of being murdered.Even now, Rwandan authorities expel some Witness children from school and have fired some Witness teachers because they refuse to sing the national anthem or participate in religious training.
      Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Canada
      Here in Canada, Jehovah’s Witnesses have not always enjoyed their rights to freedom of religion and expression.
      During the Second World War, Witness children were banned from schools in several locations because they would not salute the flag, sing the national anthem or repeat the pledge of allegiance. A Witness father sued the Hamilton Board of Education on behalf of his two sons, who had been expelled from school in 1940. In 1945, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, saying the Board was required to excuse students from participating in religious exercises to which their parents objected
      Read more: 
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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      – JW Headquarters (19.03.2019) – Almost two years after the ban of their movement in Russia, 150 Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently under investigation.Already in 2019 Russian law enforcement has conducted raids on JWs in 10 cities in 6 regions (in 2018 Russian agents conducted 280 searches in about 40 regions throughout the Federation).
      Latest figures regarding JWs facing criminal charges throughout Russia:
      Pretrial Detention: 24
      House arrest: 26
      Ban on activities: 5
      Recognizance: 55
      Wanted: 4
      Another EU citizen detained in Russia: Andrzej Oniszczuk from Poland
      Andrzej Oniszczuk, 50, has been kept in solitary confinement for over five months, and is not permitted to lie down from 06:00 to 21:00. He is only allowed to take a shower with hot water once a week for 15 minutes. The administration of the detention center in Kirov refuses to allow Andrzej to have a Bible.
      For the five months Andrzej has been detained, his wife, Anna, has not been allowed to visit him and has only communicated with him by letter. She has submitted several requests to visit Andrzej in prison; however the investigator in Kirov has repeatedly denied her requests. Typically prisoners in Russia can have visits from close family members, so it is unclear why such extreme action has been taken to keep Anna from seeing her husband.
      You may recall that Andrzej was arrested on Oct 9, 2018, when local police and masked special-forces raided 19 homes and one former place of worship for JWs in Kirov, Russia. Andrzej is being accused of “extremist” activity for simply singing biblical songs, improving the skills of missionary work, and studying religious literature.
      At the outset, Andrzej Oniszczuk was forced to sign a document under duress wherein he agreed to refuse visits by the Poland Embassy, so the embassy was initially unable to contact/assist. However, after several requests by the embassy, they have finally been allowed to visit/assist Andrzej. The address where Andrzej is being held:  FKU SIZO-1, UFSIN of Russia, Kirov Region, ul. Mopra, d. 1, Kirov, 610004. Andrzej’s pretrial detention has been extended twice (now through April 2, 2019).
      A total of seven men in Kirov are facing criminal charges for practicing their faith. Four men (44-yr-old Maksim Khalturin, 66-yr-old Vladimir Korobeynikov, 26-yr-old Andrey Suvorkov, and 41-yr-old Yevgeniy Suvorkov) had been arrested in October 2018 and held in pretrial along with Andrzej. Yevgeniy continues in pretrial detention, however the three others have been released to house arrest. Two other men (63-yr-old Vladimir Vasilyev and 25-yr-old Vladislav Grigorenko) from Kirov have been under investigation since January 21, 2019 but are not yet under any restrictions.
      BIO: Andrzej was born October 3, 1968 in the city of Białystok in northeastern Poland. After graduating from school, he became a lathe operator. Andrzej enjoys reading Russian literature, especially Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, and Pasternak. In 1997, he moved to Russia and worked for himself in the city of Kirov. There he met Anna, and they married in 2002.
      Anna, Andrzej Oniszczuk’s wife, has agreed to talk to journalists (Polish or Russian only). Her phone number +7(961) 748 2088 (via Telegram or Signal).
      Sergey Skrynnikov under threat of three years in prison
      On the heels of the Zheleznodorozhniy District Court of Oryol sentencing Dennis Christensen to six years in prison, another one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Sergey Skrynnikov, also from Oryol is being criminally tried at the same court for his peaceful worship as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and a verdict is expected on April 1, 2019.
      On 18 March, prosecutor Nadezhda Naumova recommended that the Court sentence 56-yr-old Sergey to three years in prison followed by one year of additional restrictions for so-called extremist activity. Closing statements by the defense will be next Thursday March 28, with the court’s verdict will be at 10am on Monday April 1.
      For more information, please contact Yaroslav Sivulskiy in Russia: (ysivulsk@jw.org; call or WhatsApp +7 985 359 34 10; +371 2 0044105).

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Despite recent surgery, retired widower, Jehovah's Witness Shamil Khakimov, is in pre-trial detention in Khujand under criminal investigation for "inciting religious hatred". If tried and convicted he faces five to ten years' imprisonment. His arrest followed widespread raids, interrogations and torture of local Jehovah's Witnesses.
      On 28 February, two days after his arrest, a court in the northern city of Khujand ordered that 68-year old Jehovah's Witness Shamil Khakimov be held in pre-trial detention for up to two months. Prosecutors are preparing a criminal case against him on charges of "inciting religious hatred", charges he rejects. Khakimov, who suffers from high blood pressure and recently underwent a leg operation, faces between five and ten years' imprisonment if eventually tried and convicted.
      Khakimov is currently held at Khujand's Investigation Prison.

      Khujand Investigation Prison
      Google/DigitalGlobe
      Judge Abruniso Mirasilzoda, who acceded to the Prosecutor's Office request to put Khakimov in pre-trial detention despite his medical condition, refused to explain her decision to Forum 18 (see below).
      A panel of three judges at Sogd Regional Court upheld Khakimov's pre-trial detention on 12 March. None of the judges were prepared to discuss with Forum 18 why they approved the detention of the 68-year-old, given his serious state of health (see below).
      Forum 18 was unable to reach Nosirkhuja Dodokhonzoda, Investigator of serious crimes at Sogd Regional Prosecutor's Office, who is leading the criminal case against Khakimov (see below).
      Police opened the case against Khakimov after widespread raids in January and February on homes and police interrogations of Jehovah's Witnesses across the northern Sogd Region. Some of the interrogations involved torture.
      Organised Crime Police seized Khakimov's Bible and other religious literature during a raid on his home after they interrogated him (see below).
      After the raids and interrogations, so far none of the Jehovah's Witnesses were given any punishments or faced any charges except for Khakimov. "The authorities probably want to punish a Jehovah's Witness more seriously in order for this to be a show case, a lesson for the rest of the Jehovah's Witnesses," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 on 19 March. "This may be why Khakimov was singled out."
      Jehovah's Witnesses in Khujand are still being regularly summoned and questioned by the Organised Crime Police, Jehovah's Witnesses complained to Forum 18. The Police summon individuals for interrogation "without written notifications".
      Organised Crime Police prepare Khakimov's arrest
      Trouble began for Jehovah's Witness Shamil Rasulovich Khakimov (born 30 August 1950), a retired widower, after police stopped two Jehovah's Witnesses on the street in Khujand in early January for sharing their beliefs with a passer-by.
      "The Police seized the phones of the two women and called the numbers in the phone, and this is how they found Khakimov," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. "The authorities allege that he is the leader of Jehovah's Witnesses in Khujand."
      On the evening of 28 January, Khakimov received a call from an unknown person. "The caller requested him to leave his flat and come out onto the street. It was dark so he hesitated, but the calls kept coming," Jehovah's Witnesses said. "When he decided to come outside, there was no one on the street."
      Later the caller identified himself as Nekruz Ibrokhimzoda from the Organised Crime Police of Sogd Region.
      The next day, 29 January, Organised Crime Police officers summoned some of Khakimov's friends (who are not Jehovah's Witnesses) and fellow believers, and questioned them about him.
      At lunch time on 1 February, three days after this, the Organised Crime Police's Khujand office summoned Khakimov, where officers searched him on arrival. Lieutenant Colonel Sukhrob Rustamzoda then interrogated him, including about his personal history, how he became a Jehovah's Witness, and the structure of the organisation.
      "During the interrogation, officers refused to allow Khakimov to use the services of a defence lawyer," Jehovah's Witnesses complained.
      Investigator Rustamzoda refused to comment on the case. "I cannot discuss it with you over the phone," he told Forum 18 on 19 March. "You need to talk to Sogd Regional Prosecutor's Office. They are investigating the case now." When Forum 18 insisted, asking why Police opened a case against Khakimov and why he was refused a defence lawyer to participate during his interrogation, Rustamzoda put the phone down.
      Officers seize Khakimov's property
      After the interrogation, the Organised Crime Police brought Khakimov to his flat in Khujand. Officers seized his tablet device, laptop computer, his Bible and several religious books and brochures, as well as his passport. Officers did not give him a copy of the seizure record, Jehovah's Witnesses said.
      The Police "detained him overall for eight hours the same day," Jehovah's Witnesses complained to Forum 18. "He had not fully recovered after the thrombophlebitis surgery on his legs and his bandages needed to be changed."
      Moreover, Khakimov "could not receive money transfers to continue his necessary medical treatment, since officers seized his passport".
      Prosecutor's Office ignores complaints, opens case
      On 3 February, Khakimov filed a complaint with the Regional Prosecutor's Office against the actions of the Organised Crime Police officers. "No answer has been received to this day," Jehovah's Witnesses complained to Forum 18.
      "Instead at around 9 am on 7 February, four days after his complaint, the Organised Crime Police officers once again arrived at Khakimov's home. They threatened him to open the door," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. "As the Police officers refused to provide the official summons, he decided not to open the door." 
      During the same day, the Police "repeatedly called Khakimov demanding him to come to the police station."
      Khakimov filed another complaint to the Regional Prosecutor's Office on 7 February against the actions of the Organised Crime Police. "At the Prosecutor's Office he was asked to write an additional statement on his faith and religious activity." The Prosecutor's Office, however, "refused to give him a note that he was asked to write a statement and that it had received his complaint."
      The Prosecutor's Office has "not responded to this complaint to this day either".
      Arrest, pre-trial detention
      On 26 February, 19 days after his second complaint, Police arrested Khakimov and put him in custody "despite his advanced age and poor health".
      The following day, on 27 February, the Organised Crime Police went to Khakimov's flat again. "Without showing identification documents - in the absence of Khakimov and the presence of his roommate - seized Khakimov's international passport without drawing up a record of it," Jehovah's Witnesses said.
      On 28 February, at the request of the Sogd Regional Prosecutor's Office, Judge Abruniso Mirasilzoda of Khujand City Court ordered that Khakimov be held in pre-trial detention. He is being held in the Investigation Prison in Khujand.
      Judge Mirasilzoda told Forum 18 from the court on 19 March that "his custody may last up two months while the investigation proceeds, and if need be his arrest can be prolonged." She refused to explain why Khakimov needs to be held in custody. Asked why he cannot be at home while his case is being investigated, she told Forum 18: "I gave my decision, and it entered into force."
      Asked why she did not take into account that Khakimov is an old man who recently underwent an operation on his leg, Judge Mirasilzoda replied: "His lawyer informed us about this orally, but did not present documents." Asked whether had Khakimov had the documents, she would not have ordered the pre-trial detention, she responded: "I do not want to discuss my decision further."
      Jehovah's Witnesses say the court was fully aware of Khakimov's medical condition. "On 28 February our lawyer did not yet have the documents from the doctors on Khakimov's operation, so they told Judge Mirasilzoda that Khakimov can open the bandage on his leg and show the wound, as well as producing the documents later. But she went ahead with her decision."
      Khakimov's address in Investigation Prison:
      Ya/S 9/2 Investigation Prison
      Khujand
      Sogd Region
      Tajikistan
      Why pre-trial detention?
      Jehovah's Witnesses appealed against the 28 February decision to place Khakimov in pre-trial detention. They presented in court documentation on his operation and health condition. But on 12 March, a panel of three judges at Sogd Regional Court, Ismoil Rakhmatzoda, Maftuna Rakhmatillozoda and Khotamsho Sattorzoda, upheld Khakimov's pre-trial detention.
      Asked on 20 March why the Court upheld the pre-trial detention of Khakimov, an ailing old man, Makhrambek Jumazoda, Secretary of Judge Rakhmatzoda, took down the question and Forum 18's name. Then, after consulting with an official in Judge Rakhmatzoda's office, claimed to Forum 18 that the Judge is "busy in a meeting". He then refused to talk further.
      Judge Rakhmatillozoda on 20 March also refused to explain their decision. Asked why the Court did not take into account the official records of Khakimov's condition and upheld his pre-trial detention, she responded: "I just came into my office. Can you call back in 15 minutes?" Called back later, she told Forum 18 "I cannot talk to you," and put the phone down.
      Judge Sattorzoda was adamant that the Court "correctly took the decision to put Khakimov in custody". Reminded that Khakimov presented to the Court the documents confirming his medical condition and that he is an old man, Sattorzoda repeated his previous response: "We took the decision correctly." He refused to explain the decision to Forum 18 and to answer further questions.
      Inciting hatred?
      Nosirkhuja Dodokhonzoda, Investigator of serious crimes at Sogd Regional Prosecutor's Office, is leading the case against Khakimov. On 7 March, one week after Khakimov's arrest, Dodokhonzoda officially informed him of the charges against him.
      Dodokhonzoda is investigating Khakimov under Criminal Code Article 189, Part 2 ("Inciting national, racial, local or religious hatred or dissension, humiliation of national dignity, as well as propaganda of the superiority of citizens based on their religion, national, racial, or local origin, if committed in public or using the mass media" when performed repeatedly, by a group or by an individual using their official position). Punishment is imprisonment of between five and ten years, with the possibility also of a five-year ban on specified activity.
      Prisoner of conscience Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov, who led a Protestant Church in Khujand, was punished under Criminal Code Article 189, Part 1 for allegedly "singing extremist songs in church and so inciting 'religious hatred'". Khujand City Court sentenced him to three years' imprisonment in July 2017.
      Asked why the Prosecutor's Office asked for Khakimov's pre-trial detention, and why it did not respond to Khakimov complaints on the Police illegal actions, the official (who did not give his name) who on 19 March answered the phone of Khobibullo Vokhidov, Prosecutor of Sogd Region, took down Forum 18's name and asked it to wait on the line. Moments later, he told Forum 18 that "Prosecutor Vokhidov is busy; call back in an hour or so."
      Called back later, the Prosecutor's phone numbers were all switched to a fax machine.
      Prosecutor's Office Investigator Dodokhonzoda did not answer his phones on 20 March.
      Health concerns
      Jehovah's Witnesses express concern over Khakimov's health. "He recently had an operation on the veins in his legs and suffers from high blood pressure," they told Forum 18 on 19 March. "At the moment he is still suffering from high blood pressure, and the doctors have told him not to stand for too long because of the operation."
      Jehovah's Witnesses added that although Khakimov is "doing well", he still feels pain in his leg after the surgery. "Our lawyer talked to the prison doctor and he said that he will make sure that Shamil Khakimov would not have to stand up every time officers enter the cell for checking."
      Earlier raids, interrogations
      The Organised Crime Police Department of Sogd Region interrogated about 17 Jehovah's Witnesses for periods of up to 14 hours in January and February across the northern Sogd Region, including in Khujand and Konibodom. Police also confiscated mobile phones, personal computers or tablets, and internal passports from those they interrogated.
      One female Jehovah's Witness was interrogated two days running for 14 hours. Because of the extreme stress imposed on her, she suffered a stroke, leaving her unable to walk or speak. She was then taken to hospital.
      Jehovah's Witnesses lodged a formal complaint about the police actions and torture to Sogd Regional Prosecutor's Office. "But it has taken no action and given no response to this day," Jehovah's Witnesses complained to Forum 18.
      "After the female Witness complained to President Emomali Rahmon, the General Prosecutor's Office informed her in early February in writing that it is investigating the complaint," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. "However, she has not been informed on the course or the results of the investigation to this day."
      Asked on 20 March about the investigation of this case and Khakimov's case, officials at the General Prosecutor's Office reception (who did not give their names) referred Forum 18 to its international relations section's Makhmudzoda and Karimzoda (first names were not given). The officials' phones went unanswered the same day. Called back, the reception officials refused to put Forum 18 through to any other officials to discuss the cases. (END)

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

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

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Even Putin has suggested that the campaign against the religious minority may be unwarranted.
      Christians are the most widely persecuted religious believers around the globe. They are the most numerous people of faith worldwide. They also tend to evangelize, threatening established religions. Moreover, especially in some Muslim nations, local Christians are assumed to be strong supporters of Israel and agents of America and U.S. foreign policy. The result is an increasingly tenuous existence for Christians in many lands.
      However, smaller faiths tend to face more intense hostility. Jews, of course, are the traditional scapegoats for numerous ills. Bahá’is are seen by Muslims as apostates. And Jehovah’s Witnesses now are under sustained attack in Russia.
      JWs, as they are known (and call themselves), might seem an odd addition to that list. While active, their numbers remain relatively low, about 8.5 million worldwide. Their largest national home is America. The next two are Mexico and Brazil, which exist in a region with the least religious persecution. JWs reject any political role. They do not threaten the existing order anywhere.
      Yet Russia has imposed a six-year sentence on a Danish JW, Dennis Christensen, for “organizing the activity of an extremist organization.” In 2016 the government recognized the JW faith as “extremist”; the following year the country’s supreme court ruled the JW church to be an “extremist organization” and banned it. Although Christensen knew that his faith had been outlawed, explained the prosecutor, the JW unsurprisingly continued to proselytize, hold meetings, and distribute literature. He was arrested in May 2017 at a worship service and is now set to serve six years in a penal colony — which will be decidedly less pleasant than the prisons in Christensen’s homeland.
      Unfortunately, he is not the only such victim of Russian persecution. Last year Moscow launched a vigorous nationwide campaign against JWs. Earlier this month the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses published a special report, “Russia: State-Sponsored Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses Continues.”
      From September 2017 to January 2019, the church reported, the Putin government has mounted 300 raids, mostly of homes. Twenty-three people have been jailed, 27 have been placed under house arrest, 41 have been ordered to remain in their hometown, and 121 have been placed under investigation. The church has complained that government security agents use “heavy-handed tactics against the Witnesses as though they were dealing with hardened criminals. The authorities point guns in the face of Witnesses, including children and the elderly — and manhandle them.” Property worth $90 million is subject to confiscation. More than 100 properties, including the large administrative center, have already been seized, and some 300 more face confiscation.
      The report goes on to list the other JWs facing charges. They should not be forgotten.
      Three currently are on trial: Sergey Skrynnikov, Yuriy Zalipayev, and Arkadya Akopyan. (The latter is 71 years old.)
      In pretrial detention are Aleksandr Akopov, Vladimir Atryakhin, Dmitriy Barmakin, Konstantin Bazhenov, Sergey Britvin, Aleksey Budenchuk, Sergey Klimov, Vadim Levchuk, Feliks Makhammadiyev, Valeriy Moskalenko, Georgiy Nikulin, Andrzej Oniszczuk, Konstantin Samsonov, Yuriy Savelyev, Andrey Sazonov, Aleksandr Shevchuk, Nataliya Sorokina, Yevgeniy Spirin, Andrey Stupnikov, Shamil Sultanov, Yeveniy Suvorkov, and Mariya Troshina.
      Such a campaign might be appropriate against a terrorist organization. But against a group of religious believers whose behavior is decidedly harmless? The armed assaults demonstrate that the Russian government is determined to halt private worship as well as organizational activity.
      For targeting JWs and other peaceful religious minorities, Russia has been designated a “country of particular concern” by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. In its annual report on persecutors worldwide, USCIRF observed that the Putin government has “continued to target ‘nontraditional’ religious minorities, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientologists, with fines, detentions, and criminal charges under the pretext of combating extremism. Most notably, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned outright, as was their translation of the Bible, and their followers persecuted nationwide.”
      Although Russia has gained the distinction of being just about the only majority-Christian country to persecute, it is not the only nation to ban JWs. Twenty-six Muslim nations do so, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and even reasonably liberal Kuwait, as well as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Somalia, and Yemen. Several are Communist, such as China, North Korea, and Vietnam, or formerly Communist. Eritrea, Lebanon, and Singapore are also on the list.
      Why such hostility? The sect was founded in the U.S. in the 1870s. Its doctrines, including non-trinitarianism and teachings on the role of Jesus Christ, differ significantly from those of traditional Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic. JWs rely on their own biblical translation, have a unique eschatology, and are noted for rejecting blood transfusions and refusing to celebrate traditional religious holidays. However, being different isn’t reason for persecution. (I have several JW relatives and friends. Their theology is not for me, but they are uniformly warm, decent people.)
      More significant, perhaps, is the separationist nature of JWs. An intense community rather like the Amish, they expel members through disfellowship. They refuse to accord government the respect that public officials crave or to honor the state — to say the Pledge of Allegiance in America, for example, or to serve in the military anywhere. Such attitudes may have generated the Russian claim that they are guilty of “social hostility.” Presumably they are seen as focusing on those within their community rather than without.
      Moscow denies that it is persecuting JWs for their beliefs. Rather, explained Vyacheslav Lebedev, chief justice of the Russian Supreme Court, “the situation is actually being presented as if these people are being persecuted for their belief and religious activity. Yet the decision, which was made by the Supreme Court amongst others, is unrelated to religion. It is about a violation of the law, which religious organizations have no right to breach.”
      The law bans the faith, so punishing them for exercising their faith is merely punishing a violation of the law. This argument is perfectly Orwellian. Translating Lebedev: We declared your religious faith to be extremist, and you are not allowed to be extremists. So we are arresting you for being extremists. But feel free to practice your faith and have a good day.
      Some critics appear to imagine that they are dealing with something akin to al-Qaeda. For instance, Roman Silantyev of Moscow State Linguistic University complained that “this sect promotes external and inner extremism, inciting hatred to those who think and believe in a different way and bullying their own members.” He went on to claim that “recognizing this sect as extremist gave a possibility to dozens of our citizens to leave this concentration camp.” Silantyev appears not to understand religion: Despite the threat of arrest and prison, JWs continue to meet, because they are operating out of faith rather than compulsion.
      JWs also are known for evangelism, highlighted by their going door to door. This stirs harsh resistance by majority faiths, especially those that are as much political as religious. The Russian Orthodox Church is hostile even to traditional Christian faiths. It would be difficult for its hierarchy to advocate banning Catholic and Protestant churches with roots as deep as its own, but JWs are an easier target.
      President Vladimir Putin admitted as much. When asked why his government targeted JWs, Putin dismissed the charge. But, he admitted, “our society does not consist solely of religious sects. Ninety percent of citizens of the Russian Federation or so consider themselves Orthodox Christians. . . . It is also necessary to take into account the country and the society in which we live.” Translation: JW’s are different and don’t fit in. This attitude also may explain attacks by groups and individuals on JWs, their homes, and meeting halls.
      Putin offered a glimmer of hope in December when he allowed that one should not “label representatives of religious communities as member of destructive, much less terrorist organizations” and acknowledged that he did not “quite understand why they are persecuted,” so “this should be looked into, this must be done.” Although Putin’s references to human rights should be treated with more than a few grains of salt, he appears to respect religion, and these comments are hard to explain other than as an expression of genuine puzzlement over so much effort being expended to eliminate an evidently nonexistent threat.
      Russia’s persecution of JWs pales compared with the punishment, including violence, inflicted on religious minorities elsewhere. Consider the horrors that continue to afflict religious minorities in the Middle East. Conflict zones in Iraq and Syria have shrunk, but Christians, Yazidis, and others continue to be at risk. Both sides of the Sunni–Shia divide, represented by Saudi Arabia and Iran, are inhospitable homes for non-Muslims, as well as for the “wrong” Muslims. American client states, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, are little better.
       
      Nevertheless, the precarious status of JWs worldwide shows the breadth and reach of the problem of religious persecution. In Russia, thousands of people, largely ignored owing to their small numbers and relative isolation, are being punished for their faith, persecuted for no plausible reason. The arbitrariness of the state is matched only by the hardship inflicted on the affected individuals and families.
      The freedom of Jehovah’s Witnesses should be on the religious-liberty agenda. Indeed, given the concern expressed even by Putin, American and European officials should raise the issue when they meet their Russian counterparts. The agenda with Russia is crowded. However, liberty of conscience is always worth defending. Especially when success doesn’t require armed campaigns and regime change.

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Reports from the Kuril Islands say that on February 25, 2019, in the town of Kurilsk and in the village of Reydovo (Sakhalin region), FSB officers searched two women, Olga Kalinnikova and Larisa Potapova, both Jehovah's Witnesses. The searches were conducted using a warrant issued by Chief of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation for the Sakhalin Region Lieutenant General (!) S. Kudryashov, as well as on the basis of a warrant from the judge of the Sakhalin Regional (!) Court, V. Malyovanny.
      Although the operation was formally called the “Inspection of the premises," computers, hard drives, cell phones, flash drives, and other personal items were confiscated from the two women. Criminal charges have not been initiated, and the women are not named as suspects or accused. Reason for the seizures was not explained. As a result, the women were left without means of communication on an isolated island.
      About 1,600 people live in Kurilsk, and about 1,000 people live in Reydovo.
      Law enforcement officials throughout the country continue to misinterpret ordinary religious activities of citizens as “extremist activities." Meanwhile, the Government of Russia has repeatedly insisted that the decisions of the Russian courts to ban the organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses “set out no assessment of the religious denomination of Jehovah’s Witnesses or limitation or prohibition to individually manifest the aforementioned denominations.”

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    • Guest Indiana
      By Guest Indiana
      Khanty-Mansiysk District Court on Feb. 26, 2019, denied the Investigation Committee of Russia's request to detain 38-year-old Andrey Sazonov and decided to release him immediately from custody. Earlier, on February 8, this court sentenced him to jail for 55 days, but later an appellate court reduced his term of detention and returned his case for a new trial in the same court. The decision on house arrest has been taken here by the new composition of the court.
      It is noteworthy that Andrey Sazonov will be at his home in Uray (Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area), and not in Khanty-Mansiysk, where the investigative body is located. The distance between locations is more than 400 kilometers.
      Andrey arrived home on the same day at 2 a.m. He is required to wear a leg bracelet.

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    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Two South Korean men who refused to do military service have had their convictions overturned in a landmark ruling against the government.
      Cho Rak Hoon and Kim Hyung Geun were freed by an appeals court in the southern city of Gwangju today. They had been sentenced to 18 months in prison for refusing military service at their trials, in June 2015 and May 2016 respectively, according to Amnesty International.
       

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    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      A South Korean court has ruled in favor of a man who refused to take part in the country's mandatory military service on religious grounds.

      The Gwangju District Court on Tuesday dismissed an appeal by prosecutors, upholding a previous ruling that found the man not guilty.

      It also acquitted two other so-called "conscientious objectors" who had been sentenced to one-and-a-half years in prison.

      All three of the men are Jehovah's Witnesses, who say they are prohibited by their faith from entering the military.

      The court said the men's refusal of mandatory military service was consistent with their religious faith and conscience, considering how they were brought up. 

      It cited an international trend of recognizing conscientious objectors, and pointed to a growing consensus that some kind of alternative military service is needed in such cases.

      The Defense Ministry urged the court to use caution and prudence, as cases like this may affect national security, cause a decrease of morale for active-duty servicemen, and enable others to evade military service.

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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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    • Guest Nicole
    • Guest Nicole
    • By Jack Ryan
      President Trump will protect religions in the USA via this new task force.
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      3. Jehovah's Witness  in Cuba, for decades, were stigmatized, persecuted, criticized and taboo, even Catholic. But in recent years there has been some other flexibilization. However, Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, continue to suffer discrimination. Pedro and María Isabel are a couple from Las Tunas. Both are Jehovah's Witnesses. On one occasion, Pedro applied for a vacant post in a company. Among the inquiries that are normally made in the CDR that detail was known, that even though it did not officially prevent him from opting for the position, he knew from comments from a friend that it was what tipped the scale unfavorably. But María Isabel has also suffered discrimination because she is a Jehovah's Witness. The first was when, after being affected by a cyclone, she was denied the temporary facilities she required when she lost the roof of her house. Officially she was told that it was because of being a Jehovah's Witness. The second one "happened to me in a hospital. I said I was a Jehovah's Witness when I required blood and I requested to them to  use a blood substitute. The doctors disrespected me and did what they pleased. I felt bad, more than religious they treated me like an insane person, "she says.
      https://www.cibercuba.com/noticias/2018-07-09-u1-e42839-s27061-siete-historias-reales-discriminacion-cuba
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      In a surprising move, a branch of the Russian government has called out the actions of their government’s police and judicial forces in the enforcement of the ban of Jehovah Witnesses.  The ban occurred last year when the Russian Supreme Court labeled the religious denomination an “extremist organization.” This has led to arrests of over a dozen Jehovah’s Witnesses, the closing of all administrative and religious worship buildings, and near constant harassment by police forces for the private practice of their faith. Several wives of arrested Jehovah’s Witnesses created a joint statement begging for their release. The Presidential Council is designed to help assist the Russian president in protecting human rights. In a written statement, the organization questioned the actions of the past year, saying “It cannot but be a cause for concern because the criminal prosecutions and detentions have taken on a systemic character.” This comes at a unique time for human rights and Russia. The country deflected demands by the United States to release over a hundred political and religious prisoners earlier in the week, including Jehovah’s Witnesses. The United States pressure was labeled Western propaganda. Conversely, Russia has been proposing that it takes the United States spot on the United Nations Human Rights Council. The United States announced pulling out of the international body earlier this week. Given the authoritarian control Putin has over the government, the actions of the presidential council may be purely a symbolic measure to prevent criticism from the West and gain support for their bid to join the UN Human Rights Council. It is unclear what steps will be taken and what the lasting effect will be on the government. What is not addressed in the letter is the physical violence and threats that have occurred from vigilante groups and private citizens, which seem emboldened by the government’s law and police actions.

      Read more at World Religion News: "Russian Government Criticizes Putin for Treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses" https://www.worldreligionnews.com/?p=53681
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      By Andrew Osborn
      MOSCOW (Reuters) – Advisers to President Vladimir Putin have questioned the legality of a slew of criminal cases opened against members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and asked the General Prosecutor’s office to protect the group’s freedom of belief.
      Russia’s Supreme Court ruled in April last year that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were an “extremist” organisation and must disband, a move the group unsuccessfully appealed.
      Since then, at least 19 members have been detained on criminal charges in Russia with one, Danish citizen Dennis Christensen, now held for more than a year and put on trial for extremism.
      The Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, which advises Putin but does not have policy-making powers itself, said it believed law enforcement agencies were flouting the constitution and misinterpreting last year’s ruling by locking people up for collective bible reading and praying.
      “It cannot but be a cause for concern because the criminal prosecutions and detentions have taken on a systemic character,” the council said in a statement which the Jehovah’s Witnesses publicised on Thursday.
      “The situation evokes associations with the Soviet period when Jehovah’s Witnesses suffered groundless repression because of their faith.”
      The fact that the council has intervened on the group’s behalf does not necessarily mean that Putin will take up their cause though the subject is likely to be raised at the council’s next meeting with the Russian leader.
      ‘GLIMMER OF OPTIMISM’
      The Jehovah’s Witnesses, a United States-based Christian denomination known for its door-to-door preaching and rejection of military service and blood transfusions, has around 170,000 followers in Russia.
      The U.S. State Department on Monday said it was deeply concerned by what it described as the growing number of religious prisoners held in Russia, saying that people were being persecuted “in retaliation for peaceful religious practice.”
      And on Tuesday, more than 60 well-known Russian writers, historians and rights activists signed an appeal demanding the authorities stop prosecuting the group, describing the legal onslaught on its members as a test for Russian society.
      Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a member of the European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses, said on Thursday the council’s intervention had given his group “a glimmer of optimism.”
      “We hope that common sense will prevail and that someone wise … will say that this has all gone too far,” he said.
      “If the authorities can do this to us they can apply the same logic to do the same to anyone in Russia.”
      (Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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    • Eric Ouellet

      Nous ne pouvons rien cacher à Dieu, Droite est la vision de Justice de Jéhovah 
      Louez Yah !
      Remerciez Jéhovah, car il est bon ;
      son amour fidèle est éternel.
      Qui peut proclamer tous les actes puissants de Jéhovah
      ou annoncer toutes ses actions dignes de louanges ?
      Heureux ceux qui agissent avec droiture,
      qui se comportent toujours avec justice.
      Souviens-toi de moi, ô Jéhovah, quand tu accordes ta faveur à ton peuple.
      Occupe-toi de moi par tes actes sauveurs,
      pour que je savoure le bien que tu fais à ceux que tu as choisi ;
      Pour que je me réjouisse aux côtés de ta nation,
      pour que je te loue fièrement aux côtés de ton héritage.
      Nous avons péché, comme nos ancêtres;
      nous avons mal agi, nous nous sommes conduits méchamment.
      Nos ancêtres, en Égypte, ne comprirent pas le sens de tes œuvres prodigieuses.
      Ils ne se souvinrent pas de ton immense amour fidèle,
      et ils se rebellèrent près de la mer, la mer Rouge.
      Mais par égard pour son nom, il les sauva,
      afin de faire connaître sa puissance.
      Il réprimanda la mer Rouge, et elle s’assécha ;
      il les conduisit à travers ses profondeurs comme à travers un désert;
      il les sauva de la main de leur adversaire,
      il les racheta de la main de l’ennemi.
      Les eaux recouvrirent leurs adversaires ;
      aucun d’eux ne survécut.
      Alors ils eurent foi en sa promesse ;
      ils se mirent à chanter sa louange.
      Mais ils oublièrent vite ce qu’il avait fait ;
      ils n’attendirent pas son conseil.
      Ils cédèrent à leurs désirs égoïstes dans le désert;
      ils mirent Dieu à l’épreuve dans les solitudes.
      Il leur accorda ce qu’ils demandaient,
      mais il les frappa ensuite d’un mal qui les fit dépérir.
      Dans le camp, ils devinrent jaloux de Moïse
      et d’Aaron, le saint de Jéhovah.
      Alors la terre s’ouvrit et engloutit Dathan,
      et elle recouvrit ceux qui s’étaient rassemblés avec Abiram.
      Un feu flamba parmi leur groupe,
      une flamme consuma les méchants.
      Ils firent un veau en Horeb
      et se prosternèrent devant une statue en métal;
      ils échangèrent ma gloire
      contre la représentation d’un taureau, d’un mangeur d’herbe.
      Ils oublièrent Dieu, leur Sauveur,
      qui avait fait de grandes choses en Égypte,
      des œuvres prodigieuses au pays de Cham,
      des actes redoutables à la mer Rouge.
      Il allait ordonner leur anéantissement,
      mais Moïse, celui qu’il avait choisi, intercéda auprès de lui
      pour détourner sa colère destructrice.
      Puis ils méprisèrent le pays désirable ;
      ils n’eurent pas foi dans sa promesse.
      Ils n’arrêtèrent pas de grogner dans leurs tentes ;
      ils n’écoutèrent pas la voix de Jéhovah.
      Alors, levant la main, il jura
      de les faire tomber dans le désert,
      de faire tomber leurs descendants parmi les nations
      et de les disperser dans tous les pays.
      Puis ils prirent part au culte du Baal de Péor
      et mangèrent des sacrifices offerts aux morts.
      Ils provoquèrent sa colère par leurs actions,
      et un fléau éclata parmi eux.
      Mais Phinéas se leva pour intervenir,
      et le fléau s’arrêta.
      Et cela fut porté à son compte comme justice,
      de génération en génération, pour toujours.
      Ils provoquèrent sa colère aux eaux de Meriba,
      et, à cause d’eux, les choses tournèrent mal pour Moïse.
      Ils aigrirent son esprit,
      si bien qu’il parla avec ses lèvres sans réfléchir.
      Ils n’anéantirent pas les peuples,
      contrairement à l’ordre de Jéhovah.
      Mais ils se mêlèrent aux nations
      et adoptèrent leurs manières d’agir.
      Ils servirent leurs idoles,
      et celles-ci devinrent un piège pour eux.
      Ils sacrifièrent leurs fils
      et leurs filles aux démons.
      Ils firent couler le sang d’innocents,
      le sang de leurs propres fils et de leurs propres filles
      qu’ils sacrifiaient aux idoles de Canaan;
      et le pays fut profané par le sang versé.
      Par leurs œuvres, ils se rendirent impurs ;
      par leurs actes, ils pratiquèrent la prostitution spirituelle.
      Alors la colère de Jéhovah éclata contre son peuple,
      et il en vint à détester son héritage.
      Maintes fois il les livra aux nations,
      pour que ceux qui les haïssaient dominent sur eux.
      Leurs ennemis les opprimèrent,
      et ils furent soumis à leur pouvoir.
      Bien des fois il les secourut,
      mais ils se rebellaient et désobéissaient,
      et ils étaient abaissés à cause de leur faute.
      Cependant il voyait leur détresse
      et entendait leur appel à l’aide.
      Pour eux, il se souvenait de son alliance ;
      dans son grand amour fidèle, il avait pitié.
      Il éveillait envers eux la pitié
      de tous ceux qui les tenaient captifs.
      Sauve-nous, ô Jéhovah notre Dieu,
      et rassemble-nous du milieu des nations
      pour que nous puissions glorifier ton saint nom
      et te louer dans la joie.
      Que Jéhovah, le Dieu d’Israël, soit loué
      pour toute l’éternité.
      Et que tout le peuple dise : « Amen ! »
      Louez Yah !

      · 0 replies
    • folens  »  Eric Ouellet

      Hello Eric merci pour tes sujets et partages. Bonne journée Michel
      12 SECRETS POUR MAINTENIR LA JOIE DANS l organisation de Jéhovah.pdf memoire_vivante56.pdf Un athée.pdf
      · 0 replies
    • Eric Ouellet

      Que nos sacrifices de paix venant du coeur soit pur aux services de Dieu
      Le Lévitique a été écrit il y a 3 500 ans, mais Jéhovah l’a préservé pour nous instruire  (Rom. 15:4). Ce livre nous aide à comprendre ce que Jéhovah pense et ressent. Nous devrions donc nous y intéresser de près. En fait, nous pouvons tirer beaucoup de leçons de ce livre inspiré de Dieu. Examinons-en quatre.
      COMMENT OBTENIR L’APPROBATION DE JÉHOVAH
      Première leçon : nous devons avoir l’approbation de Jéhovah si nous voulons qu’il accepte nos sacrifices. Chaque année, le jour de la Réconciliation, la nation d’Israël se rassemblait et des sacrifices d’animaux étaient offerts. Ces sacrifices rappelaient aux Israélites qu’ils avaient besoin d’être purifiés de leurs péchés. Mais avant d’entrer dans le Très-Saint avec du sang provenant des sacrifices, le grand prêtre devait d’abord accomplir une autre tâche, une tâche dont l’objectif était bien plus important que le pardon des péchés de la nation.
      (Lire Lévitique 16:12, 13.) Imagine la scène : Nous sommes le jour de la Réconciliation. Le grand prêtre entre dans le tabernacle. C’est la première des trois fois où il va entrer dans le Très-Saint ce jour-là. Dans une main, il tient un récipient contenant de l’encens parfumé, et dans l’autre un récipient à feu en or rempli de braises. Il s’arrête un instant devant le rideau du Très-Saint. Puis, avec un profond respect, il entre et va se placer devant l’arche de l’Alliance. De façon figurée, il se trouve en présence de Jéhovah lui-même ! Puis il verse avec soin l’encens sacré sur les braises, et la pièce se remplit d’un parfum délicat. Plus tard, il va de nouveau entrer dans le Très-Saint avec du sang provenant des sacrifices pour le péché. Remarque qu’il brûle l’encens avant de présenter le sang des sacrifices pour le péché
      Qu’apprenons-nous de ce que le grand prêtre devait faire avec l’encens le jour de la Réconciliation ? La Bible montre que, pour Jéhovah, les prières de ses fidèles adorateurs sont comparables à de l’encens (Ps. 141:2 ; Rév. 5:8). Comme nous venons de le voir, c’était avec un profond respect que le grand prêtre apportait l’encens jusque devant l’arche de l’Alliance, qui symbolisait la présence de Jéhovah. De la même façon, quand nous nous approchons de Jéhovah par la prière, nous le faisons avec beaucoup de respect. Nous sommes très reconnaissants au Créateur de l’univers de nous permettre de nous approcher de lui comme un enfant le fait avec son père (Jacq. 4:8). Il accepte que nous soyons ses amis ! (Ps. 25:14). Nous apprécions tellement cet honneur que nous ne voudrions jamais le décevoir.
      Souviens-toi que le grand prêtre devait brûler l’encens avant de pouvoir offrir les sacrifices. Ainsi, il faisait le nécessaire pour avoir l’approbation de Dieu au moment où il les offrirait. Qu’est-ce que cela nous apprend au sujet de Jésus ? Avant de pouvoir offrir sa vie en sacrifice, il a fallu qu’il fasse quelque chose d’essentiel, dont l’objectif était bien plus important que le salut des humains. Qu’a-t-il dû faire ? Il a dû rester fidèle à Dieu et obéir à ses commandements durant toute sa vie sur terre, ce qui permettrait à Jéhovah d’accepter son sacrifice. En restant intègre, Jésus prouverait qu’accomplir la volonté de Jéhovah est la meilleure façon de vivre. Et il justifierait la souveraineté de son Père : il apporterait la preuve que sa façon de gouverner est bonne et juste.
      Durant sa vie sur la terre, Jésus a toujours obéi parfaitement aux normes de Jéhovah. Aucune tentation ni aucune épreuve, ni même la mort atroce qui l’attendait, n’a pu affaiblir son désir de défendre la façon de gouverner de son Père (Phil. 2:8). Dans l’épreuve, Jésus priait « avec des cris puissants et des larmes » (Héb. 5:7). Ses prières intenses venaient d’un cœur fidèle à Dieu, et elles renforçaient son désir de lui rester obéissant. Pour Jéhovah, les prières de Jésus étaient comme le parfum délicat de l’encens. Par sa façon de vivre, Jésus a grandement réjoui le cœur de son Père et a justifié sa souveraineté.
      Nous imiterons Jésus en faisant le maximum pour rester fidèles à Jéhovah et obéir à ses lois. Et dans l’épreuve, comme nous voulons lui plaire, nous le supplierons de nous aider. Nous montrerons alors que nous soutenons sa souveraineté. Nous savons qu’il ne répondra pas à nos prières si nous avons une conduite qu’il n’approuve pas. Cependant, si nous respectons ses normes, nous pouvons être sûrs que nos prières sincères seront pour lui comme de l’encens au parfum délicat. Nous pouvons également être certains que notre fidélité et notre obéissance réjouiront notre Père céleste (Prov. 27:11).
      NOUS SERVONS DIEU PAR RECONNAISSANCE ET PAR AMOUR
      Deuxième leçon : nous servons Jéhovah parce que nous éprouvons pour lui de la reconnaissance. Pour développer cette idée, parlons des sacrifices de paix, un autre aspect important du vrai culte dans l’ancien Israël. Dans le livre du Lévitique, nous apprenons qu’un Israélite pouvait offrir un sacrifice de paix « pour exprimer sa reconnaissance » à Dieu (Lév. 7:11-13, 16-18). Il offrait ce sacrifice, non pas parce qu’il était obligé de le faire, mais parce qu’il le voulait. Il s’agissait donc d’un sacrifice qu’une personne faisait volontairement parce qu’elle aimait son Dieu, Jéhovah. Cette personne ainsi que sa famille et les prêtres mangeaient ensuite la viande de l’animal sacrifié. Mais certaines parties de l’animal étaient réservées exclusivement à Jéhovah. Lesquelles ?
      Troisième leçon : par amour pour Jéhovah, nous lui donnons ce que nous avons de meilleur. Jéhovah considérait la graisse comme la meilleure partie de l’animal. Il a aussi fait savoir que d’autres parties de l’animal, comme les rognons, étaient particulièrement précieuses pour lui (lire Lévitique 3:6, 12, 14-16). Cela lui faisait donc très plaisir quand un Israélite lui offrait volontairement ces parties de l’animal et la graisse. Cet Israélite montrait qu’il désirait vraiment lui offrir le meilleur. De la même façon, Jésus a offert à Jéhovah ce qu’il avait de meilleur en le servant de toute son âme et par amour (Jean 14:31). Pour Jésus, faire la volonté de son Père était un plaisir ; il avait un amour profond pour la loi de Dieu (Ps. 40:8). Comme cela a dû réjouir Jéhovah de voir son Fils le servir avec autant d’enthousiasme !
      Comme ces sacrifices de paix, notre service pour Jéhovah est une façon de lui montrer ce que nous ressentons pour lui. Nous lui donnons ce que nous avons de meilleur, et nous le faisons parce que nous l’aimons de tout notre cœur. Comme cela doit le réjouir de voir des millions de personnes le servir avec plaisir parce qu’elles ont un profond amour pour lui et pour ses normes ! Cela nous réconforte de savoir que Jéhovah voit non seulement nos actions, mais aussi nos mobiles, et qu’il y accorde de la valeur. Par exemple, si tu es âgé et que tu ne peux plus en faire autant qu’avant, sois certain que Jéhovah comprend tes limites. Tu penses peut-être que tu n’as pas grand-chose à lui offrir. Mais lui, il voit que ton profond amour pour lui te pousse à faire ce que tu peux. Il accepte avec plaisir ce que tu as de mieux à lui donner.
      Que nous apprennent les sacrifices de paix ? Alors que le feu consumait les meilleures parties de l’animal, la fumée s’élevait vers le ciel et cela faisait très plaisir à Jéhovah. Tu peux donc être sûr que Jéhovah est vraiment content de toi quand tu fais tout ce que tu peux pour le servir (Col. 3:23). Imagine son sourire d’approbation. Il considère comme très précieux les efforts que tu fournis à son service, qu’ils soient grands ou petits, et il ne les oubliera jamais (Mat. 6:20 ; Héb. 6:10).
      JÉHOVAH BÉNIT SON ORGANISATION
      Quatrième leçon : Jéhovah bénit la partie terrestre de son organisation. Rappelle-toi ce qui est arrivé en 1512 avant notre ère, quand le tabernacle a été dressé au pied du mont Sinaï (Ex. 40:17). Moïse a présidé une cérémonie durant laquelle Aaron et ses fils ont été établis prêtres. La nation d’Israël s’était rassemblée pour voir les prêtres présenter leurs premiers sacrifices (Lév. 9:1-5). Comment Jéhovah a-t-il montré qu’il approuvait cette nouvelle prêtrise ? Alors qu’Aaron et Moïse bénissaient le peuple, Jéhovah a fait descendre du ciel un feu qui a complètement consumé le sacrifice sur l’autel (Lévitique 9:23,24)
      Dans quel objectif Jéhovah a-t-il provoqué ce spectacle impressionnant à la fin de la cérémonie durant laquelle Aaron a été établi grand prêtre ? Il voulait montrer par là qu’il soutenait pleinement la prêtrise aaronique. Et les Israélites ont clairement vu qu’elle avait son approbation. Ils avaient donc toutes les raisons de la soutenir eux aussi. Est-ce important pour nous de savoir cela ? Oui ! La prêtrise en Israël n’était qu’une « ombre » d’une prêtrise bien meilleure. Le Christ est le Grand Prêtre par excellence et 144 000 humains seront prêtres et rois à ses côtés au ciel (Héb. 4:14 ; 8:3-5 ; 10:1).
      En 1919, Jésus a choisi un petit groupe de frères oints pour former l’« esclave fidèle et avisé ». Cet esclave dirige la prédication et donne aux disciples du Christ « leur nourriture au bon moment » (Mat. 24:45). Avons-nous des preuves que Dieu l’approuve
      Satan et son monde font tout ce qu’ils peuvent pour empêcher cet esclave d’assumer ses responsabilités, à tel point que, sans l’aide de Dieu, il n’y arriverait pas. Toutefois, malgré deux guerres mondiales, des persécutions incessantes, des crises économiques mondiales et des traitements injustes, il continue de fournir de la nourriture spirituelle aux disciples du Christ sur la terre. Pense à toute la nourriture spirituelle qui est aujourd’hui disponible gratuitement dans plus de 900 langues ! C’est une preuve incontestable du soutien de Dieu. Et voici une autre preuve encore : la prédication. La bonne nouvelle est prêchée « sur toute la terre » ! (Mat. 24:14). Il n’y a pas de doute, Jéhovah guide et bénit abondamment son organisation.
      Demandons-nous : « Suis-je reconnaissant à Dieu de pouvoir collaborer avec la partie terrestre de son organisation ? » Jéhovah nous donne des preuves qu’il la soutient, des preuves aussi convaincantes que le feu qui est descendu du ciel à l’époque de Moïse et d’Aaron. Nous avons de nombreuses raisons d’être reconnaissants à notre Dieu (1 Thess. 5:18, 19). Comment pouvons-nous soutenir l’organisation qu’il utilise ? En suivant les conseils basés sur la Bible qui nous sont donnés dans nos publications, aux réunions et aux assemblées, ainsi qu’en participant le plus possible à l’activité de prédication et d’enseignement (1 Cor. 15:58).
      Soyons déterminés à appliquer les leçons que nous avons tirées du livre du Lévitique. Cherchons à obtenir l’approbation de Jéhovah pour qu’il accepte nos sacrifices. Servons-le par reconnaissance. Continuons de lui donner par amour ce que nous avons de meilleur. Et soutenons de tout notre cœur l’organisation qu’il bénit. Nous lui montrerons alors que nous chérissons l’honneur de le servir et d’être ses Témoins !
      · 0 replies
    • Eric Ouellet

      Soyons remplis de gratitude envers autrui 
       
      AVEZ-VOUS déjà reçu un petit mot de reconnaissance auquel vous ne vous attendiez pas ? Si c’est le cas, cela vous a certainement fait chaud au cœur. Après tout, il est naturel de vouloir être apprécié. — Matthieu 25:19-23.
      Toute expression de gratitude tend à renforcer les liens entre celui qui en est l’auteur et celui qui en est le destinataire. En outre, quiconque manifeste de la gratitude suit les traces de Jésus Christ, qui n’a jamais manqué de remarquer les belles œuvres des autres. — Marc 14:3-9 ; Luc 21:1-4.
      Malheureusement, exprimer sa gratitude, de vive voix ou par écrit, semble se faire de plus en plus rare. La Bible avait annoncé que, durant “ les derniers jours ”, les hommes seraient “ ingrats ”. (2 Timothée 3:1, 2.) Si nous n’y prenons pas garde, cette tendance si répandue aujourd’hui risque d’étouffer en nous tout sentiment de reconnaissance.
      Quelles mesures concrètes les parents peuvent-ils adopter pour enseigner à leurs enfants à manifester de la reconnaissance ? À qui devrions-nous exprimer notre gratitude ? Et pourquoi devrions-nous être reconnaissants, même si ceux qui nous entourent se révèlent ingrats ?
      Dans le cercle familial
      Les parents ne ménagent pas leurs efforts pour subvenir aux besoins de leurs enfants. Mais il leur arrive d’avoir le sentiment que ces efforts ne sont pas appréciés à leur juste valeur. Que faire pour remédier à cette situation ? Trois paramètres sont à prendre en compte.
      1) L’exemple. Comme cela se vérifie souvent en matière d’éducation, la réussite passe par l’exemple. La Bible disait jadis d’une Israélite travailleuse : “ Ses fils ont voulu la féliciter. ” Où ces enfants avaient-ils appris à exprimer leur reconnaissance ? La suite du verset nous éclaire : “ Son mari est le premier à la louer. ” (Proverbes 31:28, Bible des Peuples). Les parents qui s’expriment de la reconnaissance montrent à leurs enfants que ce genre de témoignage procure du plaisir à celui qui en est l’objet, améliore les relations familiales et constitue un signe de maturité.
      Stephen, un père de famille, déclare : “ Je me suis efforcé de donner l’exemple à mes enfants en remerciant ma femme pour le dîner. ” Qu’en est-il résulté ? “ Mes deux filles l’ont remarqué, et cela leur a fait prendre conscience de l’importance de se montrer reconnaissant ”, dit-il. Si vous êtes marié, remerciez-vous régulièrement votre conjoint pour les tâches quotidiennes qu’il accomplit et qui auraient vite fait de passer inaperçues ? Dites-vous merci à vos enfants, même lorsqu’ils font ce qu’on attend d’eux ?
      2) L’éducation. Le sentiment de reconnaissance est comme une fleur. Il a besoin d’être cultivé pour produire les meilleurs résultats possibles. Comment les parents peuvent-ils aider leurs enfants à cultiver et à exprimer de la reconnaissance ? Le sage roi Salomon a mis en évidence un principe clé lorsqu’il a écrit : “ Le cœur du juste médite pour répondre. ” — Proverbes 15:28.
      Pouvez-vous apprendre à vos enfants à songer aux efforts et à la générosité qui ont précédé chaque cadeau qu’ils reçoivent ? Ce genre de réflexion constitue le sol dans lequel la gratitude s’enracine. Maria, qui a élevé trois enfants, constate : “ Cela prend du temps d’expliquer à ses enfants tout ce que signifie recevoir un cadeau : qu’une personne a pensé à eux en particulier et qu’elle a souhaité leur montrer à quel point elle s’intéresse à eux. Mais je suis convaincue que ça en vaut la peine. ” Grâce à de tels échanges, les enfants apprennent non seulement quoi dire pour exprimer leur reconnaissance, mais aussi pourquoi ils doivent le faire.
      Il est sage, pour des parents, de faire en sorte que leurs enfants n’aient pas le sentiment que tout ce qu’ils reçoivent de bon leur revient, finalement, de droit. L’avertissement figurant en Proverbes 29:21 à propos de la manière de traiter son serviteur s’applique tout autant aux enfants : “ Si l’on gâte son serviteur dès sa jeunesse, par la suite dans sa vie il deviendra un ingrat. ”
      Comment aider de très jeunes enfants à témoigner de la reconnaissance ? Linda, mère de trois enfants, explique : “ Mon mari et moi avons encouragé nos enfants à s’associer à nous quand nous écrivions des cartes de remerciement, en y joignant un dessin ou en les signant. ” Naturellement, le dessin sera peut-être simple, et l’écriture approximative, mais la leçon que les enfants tireront de ce geste restera gravée en eux.
      3) La persévérance. Nous avons tous une tendance innée à l’égoïsme, qui risque d’étouffer en nous tout élan de gratitude (Genèse 8:21 ; Matthieu 15:19). Mais la Bible adresse aux serviteurs de Dieu cette exhortation : “ Vous devez être renouvelés dans la force qui anime votre intelligence et revêtir la personnalité nouvelle qui a été créée selon la volonté de Dieu. ” — Éphésiens 4:23, 24.
      Les parents expérimentés savent, toutefois, qu’aider les enfants à “ revêtir la personnalité nouvelle ” est plus facile à dire qu’à faire. Stephen, cité plus haut, déclare : “ Il nous semblait que nos filles mettaient du temps à dire spontanément merci, sans qu’on ait besoin de le leur rappeler. ” Mais lui et sa femme n’ont pas abandonné. “ Notre persévérance a payé, poursuit Stephen : nos filles ont retenu la leçon. Aujourd’hui, nous sommes fiers de la manière dont elles manifestent leur gratitude aux autres. ”
      Envers les amis et le prochain
      Lorsque nous oublions de dire merci, ce n’est pas forcément par manque de reconnaissance, mais parfois simplement par négligence. En définitive, du moment que nous éprouvons de la gratitude, est-il si important que cela de l’exprimer ? Pour répondre à cette question, considérons ce qui s’est passé un jour où Jésus a guéri des lépreux.
      Alors qu’il se rendait à Jérusalem, Jésus a rencontré dix hommes atteints de lèpre. La Bible relate : “ Ils élevèrent la voix et dirent : ‘ Jésus, Instructeur, aie pitié de nous ! ’ Et lorsqu’il les vit, il leur dit : ‘ Allez vous montrer aux prêtres. ’ Or, comme ils s’en allaient, leur purification eut lieu. L’un d’eux, quand il vit qu’il était guéri, revint sur ses pas, glorifiant Dieu d’une voix forte. Et il tomba sur sa face aux pieds de Jésus, en le remerciant ; or, c’était un Samaritain. ” — Luc 17:11-16.
      Jésus n’a-t-il accordé aucune importance au fait que les autres n’aient pas exprimé de gratitude ? Le récit poursuit : “ En réponse Jésus dit : ‘ Les dix ont été purifiés, n’est-ce pas ? Où sont donc les neuf autres ? Ne s’est-il trouvé personne pour revenir rendre gloire à Dieu, que cet homme d’une autre nation ? ’ ” — Luc 17:17, 18.
      Les neuf autres lépreux n’étaient pas des hommes méchants. Auparavant, ils avaient ouvertement exprimé leur foi en Jésus et avaient suivi de bon gré ses instructions, qui exigeaient qu’ils se rendent à Jérusalem pour se montrer aux prêtres. Or, même s’ils ont indéniablement éprouvé une profonde gratitude pour ce que Jésus avait fait, ils ne la lui ont pas exprimée. Leur comportement a déçu Christ. Et nous ? Quand quelqu’un se montre bon à notre égard, sommes-nous prompts à dire merci et, si cela s’y prête, à lui montrer notre reconnaissance en lui envoyant une petite carte ?
      La Bible dit que l’amour “ ne fait rien d’inconvenant. Il ne cherche pas son propre intérêt ”. (1 Corinthiens 13:5, Bible du Semeur.) Par conséquent, un témoignage de reconnaissance donné avec sincérité non seulement traduit un respect des convenances, mais aussi est une preuve d’amour. Comme nous l’apprend l’exemple des lépreux, ceux qui souhaitent plaire à Christ doivent exprimer un tel amour et une telle reconnaissance à tous, indépendamment de leur nationalité, de leur race ou de leur religion.
      Posez-vous la question : ‘ Quand ai-je pour la dernière fois remercié un voisin, un collègue de travail, un camarade de classe, un membre du personnel hospitalier, un commerçant ou qui que ce soit d’autre qui me soit venu en aide ? ’ Pourquoi ne pas noter pendant un jour ou deux le nombre de fois où vous dites effectivement merci ou exprimez votre reconnaissance d’une façon ou d’une autre  ? Peut-être verrez-vous la nécessité de vous améliorer dans certains domaines.
      Bien entendu, celui qui mérite le plus de remerciements de notre part, c’est Jéhovah Dieu. De lui vient “ tout beau don et tout présent parfait ”. (Jacques 1:17.) À quand remonte la dernière fois où vous avez sincèrement remercié Dieu pour avoir fait quelque chose de particulier en votre faveur ? — 1 Thessaloniciens 5:17, 18.
      Pourquoi se montrer reconnaissant même quand les autres sont ingrats ?
      Nos témoignages de reconnaissance ne seront pas forcément payés de retour. Par conséquent, pourquoi manifester notre gratitude si nous sommes les seuls à le faire ? Arrêtons-nous simplement sur une bonne raison d’agir ainsi.
      Faire du bien à ceux qui ne sont pas enclins à la gratitude, c’est imiter notre Créateur bienveillant, Jéhovah Dieu. Que beaucoup ne soient pas sensibles à l’amour que Jéhovah leur témoigne ne l’empêche pas de leur faire du bien (Romains 5:8 ; 1 Jean 4:9, 10). Il fait “ lever son soleil sur les méchants et sur les bons et [...] fait pleuvoir sur les justes et sur les injustes ”. Si, bien que vivant dans un monde ingrat, nous nous efforçons d’éprouver et d’exprimer de la gratitude, nous nous montrerons “ fils de [notre] Père qui est dans les cieux ”. — Matthieu 5:45.

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    • Eric Ouellet

      Enracinons nous dans la foi comme un arbre luxuriant.
      EN ISRAËL pousse un arbre presque indestructible. Même lorsqu’on l’abat, sa souche ne tarde pas à produire de nouvelles pousses. Par ailleurs, ses fruits fournissent une grande quantité d’huile utile tant pour la cuisine et l’éclairage que pour l’hygiène et les soins de beauté.
      Selon une parabole des temps bibliques consignée dans le livre des Juges, “ un jour les arbres s’en allèrent pour oindre un roi sur eux ”. Quel arbre choisirent-ils ? Le résistant et fertile olivier. — Juges 9:8.
      Il y a plus de 3 500 ans, le prophète Moïse décrivait Israël comme “ un bon pays, [...] un pays d’olives ”. (Deutéronome 8:7, 8.) Aujourd’hui encore, du pied du mont Hermôn à la campagne de Béershéba en passant par la plaine côtière du Sharôn, les pentes rocailleuses de la Samarie et les vallées fertiles de la Galilée, le paysage est parsemé d’oliveraies du nord au sud.
      Les rédacteurs de la Bible ont souvent parlé de l’olivier dans un sens figuré pour illustrer, par exemple, la miséricorde de Dieu, la promesse de la résurrection ou encore le bonheur familial. L’examen de quelques-unes de ses caractéristiques nous aidera à mieux comprendre ces références et à apprécier cet arbre exceptionnel qui fait honneur au Créateur. — Psaume 148:7, 9.
      Un arbre robuste
      L’olivier n’est pas spécialement impressionnant à première vue. Il n’a pas la majesté des vertigineux cèdres du Liban, son bois n’a pas la qualité du genévrier ni ses fleurs la beauté de celles de l’amandier (Chant de Salomon 1:17 ; Amos 2:9). En fait, sa partie la plus importante demeure invisible, puisque le secret de sa résistance et de sa grande prolificité réside dans ses longues racines, qui peuvent s’enfoncer jusqu’à six mètres sous terre et rayonner plus loin encore.
      Ses racines permettent à l’olivier poussant sur des versants rocailleux de survivre à la sécheresse quand d’autres arbres situés au fond de la vallée sont déjà morts de soif. Elles lui permettent également de produire des olives des siècles durant, même lorsque son tronc noueux ne semble plus bon qu’à servir de bois de chauffage. Tout ce dont cet arbre rustique a besoin, c’est de place pour pousser et d’un sol aéré pour respirer, loin des mauvaises herbes et autres plantes qui peuvent abriter des parasites. Si ces conditions simples sont réunies, un seul arbre peut fournir jusqu’à 60 litres d’huile par an.
      Cette huile était manifestement appréciée des Israélites. Ils s’en servaient pour éclairer leur intérieur à l’aide de lampes à mèches, pour cuisiner, pour protéger leur peau du soleil et pour fabriquer du savon (Lévitique 24:2). Étant donné que le blé, le vin et l’olive constituaient les principales productions de la région, une mauvaise récolte d’olives était une catastrophe pour une famille israélite. — Deutéronome 7:13 ; Habaqouq 3:17.
      Cependant, en général, l’huile d’olive ne manquait pas. Sans doute Moïse a-t-il décrit la Terre promise comme “ un pays d’olives ” parce que l’olivier y était l’arbre le plus cultivé. Au XIXe siècle, le naturaliste Henry Tristram a d’ailleurs qualifié l’olivier d’arbre emblématique de la région ”. En raison de sa valeur et de sa profusion, l’huile d’olive servait même de moyen de paiement dans tout le bassin méditerranéen. De là, l’allusion de Jésus Christ à une dette de “ cent baths d’huile d’olive ”. — Luc 16:5, 6.
      “ Comme des plants d’olivier ”
      L’olivier illustre de façon appropriée les bénédictions divines. Comment l’homme qui craint Dieu serait-il récompensé ? “ Ta femme sera comme une vigne qui porte du fruit tout au fond de ta maison, a chanté un psalmiste. Tes fils seront comme des plants d’olivier autour de ta table. ” (Psaume 128:3). Que sont ces “ plants d’olivier ”, et pourquoi le psalmiste les comparait-il à des fils ?
      L’olivier a ceci de particulier que de nouvelles pousses sortent continuellement de la base de son tronc. Lorsque, en raison de son âge, le tronc principal ne produit plus autant qu’auparavant, les cultivateurs peuvent laisser plusieurs plants, ou nouvelles pousses, se développer jusqu’à devenir partie intégrante de l’arbre. Au bout d’un certain temps, trois ou quatre nouveaux troncs vigoureux entoureront celui d’origine, comme des fils autour d’une table. Ces plants issus de la même souche produisent ensemble une grande quantité d’olives.
      Cette caractéristique de l’olivier illustre bien la façon dont les fils et les filles peuvent devenir fermes dans la foi, grâce aux robustes racines spirituelles de leurs parents. En grandissant, eux aussi portent du fruit et épaulent leurs parents, qui se réjouissent de les voir servir Jéhovah à leurs côtés. — Proverbes 15:20.
      “ Il existe un espoir même pour un arbre ”
      Un père âgé qui sert Jéhovah se réjouit que ses enfants adorent Dieu. Mais quelle tristesse quand ce père finit par ‘ s’en aller par le chemin de toute la terre ’ ! (1 Rois 2:2.) La Bible nous aide à surmonter pareille douleur en nous donnant l’assurance qu’il y aura une résurrection. — Jean 5:28, 29 ; 11:25.
      Job, père de nombreux enfants, était très conscient de la brièveté de la vie, qu’il a comparée à une fleur qui se flétrit rapidement (Job 1:2 ; 14:1, 2). Job désirait la mort pour se soustraire à ses souffrances, considérant la tombe comme une cachette d’où il pourrait revenir. “ Si un homme robuste meurt, peut-il revivre ? ” a-t-il demandé. Et d’exprimer sa confiance : “ Tous les jours de ma corvée, j’attendrai, jusqu’à ce que vienne ma relève. Tu [Jéhovah] appelleras, et moi je te répondrai. Tu languiras après l’œuvre de tes mains. ” — Job 14:13-15.
      Comment Job a-t-il illustré sa conviction que Dieu le rappellerait de la tombe ? Au moyen d’un arbre, dont la description correspond apparemment à celle de l’olivier. “ Il existe un espoir même pour un arbre. Si on le coupe, il bourgeonnera encore. ” (Job 14:7). Pour peu qu’il ne soit pas déraciné, l’olivier peut effectivement être coupé sans que cela le fasse mourir. Si ses racines demeurent intactes, il repoussera avec une vigueur renouvelée.
      Même si une sécheresse prolongée dessèche profondément un vieil olivier, la souche ratatinée peut repartir. “ Si sa racine vieillit dans la terre et si sa souche meurt dans la poussière, à l’odeur de l’eau, il bourgeonnera, oui il produira une branche comme une plante nouvelle. ” (Job 14:8, 9). Job vivait dans une région aride et poussiéreuse où il avait probablement dû observer beaucoup de vieux oliviers complètement desséchés qui semblaient morts. Cependant, dès qu’arrivaient les pluies, ils revenaient à la vie, et un nouveau tronc émergeait de leurs racines “ comme une plante nouvelle ”. Cette résistance hors du commun a conduit un horticulteur tunisien à déclarer : “ Il n’est pas exagéré de dire que les oliviers sont immortels. ”
      Tout comme un cultivateur espère voir renaître ses oliviers desséchés, Jéhovah languit de ressusciter ses serviteurs. Il attend avec patience l’époque où des fidèles comme Abraham et Sara, Isaac et Rébecca, et de nombreux autres seront ramenés à la vie (Matthieu 22:31, 32). Comme il sera merveilleux d’accueillir les ressuscités et de les voir mener de nouveau une vie productive !
      L’olivier symbolique
      La miséricorde de Dieu est manifeste dans son impartialité ainsi que dans la disposition qu’est la résurrection. L’apôtre Paul s’est servi de l’olivier pour illustrer comment la miséricorde de Jéhovah s’étend aux humains indifféremment de leur race ou de leur origine. Pendant des siècles, les Juifs se sont enorgueillis d’être le peuple choisi de Dieu, “ la descendance d’Abraham ”. — Jean 8:33 ; Luc 3:8.
      Il n’était pas nécessaire d’être né au sein de la nation juive pour obtenir la faveur divine. Les premiers disciples de Jésus, cependant, étaient tous Juifs et ils ont eu le privilège de figurer parmi les premiers humains choisis par Dieu pour constituer la semence promise d’Abraham (Genèse 22:18 ; Galates 3:29). Paul les a comparés aux branches d’un olivier.
      La majorité des Juifs de naissance ont rejeté Jésus, se privant ainsi de la possibilité de faire partie du “ petit troupeau ”, ou “ Israël de Dieu ”. (Luc 12:32 ; Galates 6:16.) Ils sont devenus comme des branches d’olivier qui auraient été coupées. Qui allait prendre leur place ? En 36 de notre ère, des Gentils ont été choisis pour faire partie de la semence d’Abraham, comme si Jéhovah avait greffé des branches d’olivier sauvage sur un olivier domestique. La semence promise d’Abraham inclurait donc des gens des nations qui pouvaient désormais devenir ‘ participants de la racine de graisse de l’olivier ’. — Romains 11:17.
      Pour un cultivateur, greffer une branche d’olivier sauvage sur un olivier domestique serait impensable et “ contre nature ”. (Romains 11:24.) On lit dans La terre et le Livre (angl.) : “ Greffe le bon sur le sauvage, ont coutume de dire les Arabes, et il dominera le sauvage, mais tu ne pourras pas revenir en arrière. ” Les chrétiens d’origine juive ont été surpris lorsque Jéhovah, “ pour la première fois, s’est occupé des nations pour tirer d’entre elles un peuple pour son nom ”. (Actes 10:44-48 ; 15:14.) C’était la preuve évidente, toutefois, que la réalisation du dessein de Dieu ne dépendait pas d’une nation particulière. En effet, “ en toute nation l’homme qui le craint et pratique la justice est agréé de lui ”. — Actes 10:35.
      Paul a souligné que puisque les “ branches ” juives infidèles de l’olivier avaient été coupées la même chose pourrait arriver à toute personne qui, par orgueil ou désobéissance, perdrait la faveur de Jéhovah (Romains 11:19, 20). Cela montre sans l’ombre d’un doute que la faveur imméritée de Dieu ne devrait jamais être considérée comme définitivement acquise. — 2 Corinthiens 6:1.
      Enduire d’huile
      Les Écritures mentionnent l’utilisation de l’huile d’olive non seulement au sens littéral, mais également au sens figuré. Dans les temps anciens, les blessures et les contusions étaient “ adoucies avec de l’huile ” pour accélérer la cicatrisation (Isaïe 1:6). D’après un exemple de Jésus, le bon Samaritain a versé de l’huile et du vin sur les blessures de l’homme qu’il avait trouvé sur la route de Jéricho. — Luc 10:34.
      L’application d’huile sur la tête est rafraîchissante et relaxante (Psaume 141:5). Lorsqu’ils ont à traiter un cas de faiblesse spirituelle, les anciens peuvent ‘ enduire d’huile un membre de la congrégation, au nom de Jéhovah ’. (Jacques 5:14.) Leurs conseils bibliques pleins d’amour et leurs prières sincères en faveur de leur compagnon sont comparables à de l’huile versée sur des plaies. Détail révélateur, en hébreu, “ huile d’olive pure ” est une expression imagée qui sert à désigner un homme bon.
      “ Un olivier luxuriant dans la maison de Dieu ”
      Compte tenu de ce qui précède, il n’est pas surprenant que les serviteurs de Dieu puissent être comparés à des oliviers. David désirait ressembler à “ un olivier luxuriant dans la maison de Dieu ”. (Psaume 52:8.) Tout comme les familles israélites avaient souvent des oliviers autour de leur maison, David souhaitait être proche de Jéhovah pour produire du fruit à sa louange. — Psaume 52:9.
      Tant qu’il est resté fidèle à Jéhovah, le royaume de Juda était comme un “ olivier luxuriant, beau par le fruit et par la forme ”. (Jérémie 11:15, 16.) Mais ses habitants ont perdu leur position privilégiée lorsqu’ils ‘ ont refusé d’obéir aux paroles de Jéhovah et ont marché à la suite d’autres dieux ’. — Jérémie 11:10.
      Pour devenir comme des oliviers luxuriants dans la maison de Dieu, nous devons obéir à Jéhovah et accepter de bon gré la discipline par laquelle il nous “ taille ”, afin que nous puissions porter davantage de fruit en œuvres chrétiennes (Hébreux 12:5, 6). En outre, tout comme un olivier doit avoir de longues racines pour survivre à une période de sécheresse, nous devons fortifier nos racines spirituelles pour endurer les épreuves et la persécution. — Matthieu 13:21 ; Colossiens 2:6, 7.
      L’olivier symbolise bien le chrétien fidèle, inconnu du monde mais connu de Dieu. S’il vient à mourir dans ce système, il reviendra à la vie dans le monde nouveau à venir. — 2 Corinthiens 6:9 ; 2 Pierre 3:13.
      L’olivier, presque indestructible, qui continue de donner du fruit année après année nous rappelle la promesse de Dieu : “ Les jours de mon peuple seront comme les jours d’un arbre ; et ceux que j’ai choisis profiteront pleinement de l’œuvre de leurs mains. ” (Isaïe 65:22). Cette promesse prophétique s’accomplira dans le monde nouveau de Dieu. — 2 Pierre 3:13.


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