DOCUMENT: OPEN PETITION TO DIRECTOR OF F.S.B. AND PROSECUTOR GENERAL OF R.F.
Despite the fact that the constitution of the R.F. clearly indicates that Russia is a secular state in which each person is given the right to freedom of conscience and religious confession, this right is continually violated with respect to those who confess other religions.
The wording of the law on combating extremist activity is so vague and broad that it effectively permits law enforcement agents to apply it to any religious (and not only) organization. If one does not take a stand to defend freedom of religious confession, after the oppression now of Scientologists and Jehovah's Witnesses there will follow others also—Buddhists, protestants, Catholics. The group of Jehovah's Witnesses has been liquidated, being declared an extremist organization, and Muslims, Pentecostals, Seventh-Day Adventists and other religious movements and groups will be persecuted.
We ask citizen to take a stand not in defense of Scientologists but in defense of our common right granted to us by the constitution: "to profess individually or jointly with others any religion or not to profess any, and to choose freely and to hold and disseminate religious and other convictions and to act in accordance with them."
In June 2017, personnel of the F.S.B. and O.M.O.N. [special forces] conducted a search in the St. Petersburg Church of Scientology and apartments of its leaders. Five employees of the church were arrested and interrogated, four were sent to the SIZO, and one was placed under house arrest. They are accused of illegal entrepreneurial activity and extremism, and if a court finds employees of the church guilty, they are threatened with incarceration from six to ten years.
The case against the St. Petersburg Scientologists is by no means the first in a chain of consistent harassment of religious organizations in Russia. Scientologists have been persecuted from the very start of their work in Russia: refusal of reregistration as a religious organization, closure of organizations, constant searches, and liquidation of the Moscow church. They are forbidden to register themselves as a religious or public organization, they are liquidated as a legal entity, and their collection of donations and dispersal of funds in the interests of the church have been declared to be illegal entrepreneurial activity. The European Court of Human Rights has already resolved that the refusal to register the St. Petersburg Church of Scientology violates its right to freedom of religion and association.
But the economic accusation is only additional to the accusation of extremism, which any religious denominations cannot avoid, except for the Russian Orthodox Church, which obviously receives privileges.
We are asking for a fair trial for the prisoners of conscience who are now in the SIZO and under house arrest: Anastasia Terentieva, Sakhib Aliev, Konstantsia Esaulkova, Ivan Matsitsky, and Galina Shurinova. We ask the F.S.B. and office of the prosecutor general to investigate the actions of the St. Petersburg law enforcement agencies and to release the illegally detained citizens.
We ask you to sign this petition and talk about it, because pressure on religious associations threatens all of us—Orthodox, Muslims, Scientologists, atheists, and those who profess any other religion.
Anna Sarantseva, laureate of the government prize for contribution to the development of culture and art of Russia, screenwriter of the children's serial "Luntik" and author of the novel "Train of Hopes," and co-founder of the Committee for Children's and Youth Literature in St. Petersburg.
One may sign the petition HERE.
(tr. by PDS, posted 19 August 2017)
Russian original posted on Portal-Credo.Ru, 17 August 2017
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