More details about harassment of Jehovah's Witnesses



No fewer than 16 residences of peaceful citizens in Belgorod and 12 residences in Kemerovo were subjected to invasion by representatives of law enforcement agencies and to searches. Dozens of people were arrested and several have remained in custody for two days now. As the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses reported on 9 February, the citizens are suspected of continuing the activity of the organization "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia," which was liquidated by decision of the Russian Supreme Court on 20 April 2017, which found the aforesaid organization "extremist."


In the evening of 7 February in Belgorod, large groups consisting of personnel of the police, the Investigation Directorate of the MVD, and armed troops of a SOBR [Special Rapid Response Unit] simultaneously barged into a number of private homes of local residents. In some cases citizens were thrown to the floor and pinned to the wall, and then all were forcibly taken to the police department and searches were conducted in the residences. A group of deaf people also was taken to the police department, who had gathered for friendly communication. In all, dozens of people were taken to the police department at 60 Prince Trubetskoy St. At the police department, passport data were collected from citizens, fingerprints were taken, and summons were drawn up. The last of those released left at nine in the morning of the next day. Two citizens, Anatoly Shaliapin and Sergei Voikov, were held in custody for 48 hours and the issue of the selection of measures of prevention was decided within the context of the investigation of a case regarding continuation of the activity of an extremist organization.


During the searches, which sometimes were conducted in a brutal form and were accompanied by insulting comments, from the citizens were seized Bibles, all electronic equipment and data storage devices, travel passports, money, and in some cases even photographs that were hanging on the wall. By the next day interrogations of citizens were begun, who appeared at the police department on the basis of summons. It has been learned that an investigation group, consisting of 12 investigators of the Investigation Directorate of the MVD, was created.


The Kemerovo case, which was initiated on 19 January on the basis of part 2 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the RF, was conducted by Colonel of Justice Oksana Rybalkina, an investigator of the Investigative Committee of the Russian federation for especially important cases. She petitioned in a court for conducting searches in homes of citizens, arguing that, according to her information, no fewer than 14 local residents were continuing to profess the religion of the Jehovah's Witnesses. A judge of the central district court of the city of Kemerovo, Irina Ivanova, immediately granted in one day at least 12 of her petitions. As a result, searches were conducted in 12 homes of peaceful believers, which continued into the nighttime hours. In some cases, armed troops of the SOBR in masks opened doors by force, burst in, and pinned peaceful citizens with their faces to a wall and upstretched arms or threw them to the floor. Sometimes more than 10 persons burst into the apartments, including personnel of the police, Russian Guard, and Investigative Committee. Citizens were refused the possibility of making a telephone call or summoning an attorney. The refusal was accompanied by an explanation by the senior Center for Combating Extremism commissioner for especially important cases, Stanislav Shlagov: "We are not in America." Telephones, tablets, computers, personal effects, and data storage devices were taken from believers. It is reported that witnesses attending the searches were acquaintances of the police and actively helped them in some cases with their own prompts.


The Russian Ministry of Justice, which last year requested the liquidation of the legal entity of Jehovah's Witnesses, had insisted that the constitutional rights of individual believers would not be affected in any way in the event of the satisfaction of its lawsuit. (tr. by PDS, posted 11 February 2018)

Background articles:
Another raid on Jehovah's Witnesses' homes
February 9, 2018
Identity of subjects of criminal case confirmed
February 9, 2018

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