NEW SEARCHES IN KEMEROVO, BELIEVERS PLACED UNDER HOUSE ARREST
Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 26 July 2019
On 24 July 2019, Judge Elena Lapina of the Central district court placed two peaceful Kemerovans, 58-year-old Sergei Yavushkin and 45-year-old Alexander Bondarchuk, under house arrest for one month and 27 days. Before this they spent almost two days in a cell of temporary confinement.
On 22 July, at 6:00 in the morning, personnel of the Investigative Committee broke into their apartments for what was a second search. The first time the believers were subjected to this humiliating procedure was 23 January 2018. In the opinion of investigator M. Nikitin, both suspects profess the religious of Jehovah's Witnesses, and therefore are involved in extremist activity. On 18 July 2019, a criminal case was opened against them based on the article "Arranging the activity of an extremist organization" (part 2, article 282.2 of the CC RF).
This was not the first instance of prosecution for faith in Kemerovo oblast. The city of Berezovskii has become an epicenter of persecutions. On 22 July 2018, Sergei Britvin and Vadim Levchuk were arrested there and placed in a SIZO. In February 2019, a court placed another resident of this city, Khasan Kogut, under house arrest. They all were accused merely of not ceasing to profess the religious views of Jehovah's Witnesses after the decision of the Supreme Court of 20 April 2017.
The wave of religious repressions, which is continuing in Kemerovo oblast for a second year now, was the direct consequence of the fact that peaceful citizens were stigmatized as extremists for the simple profession of religion. The government of the Russian Federation has emphasized that the views of Jehovah's Witnesses have never been declared to be criminal in Russia. Even the president of the country has spoken out against persecutions of them. (tr. by PDS, posted 26 July 2019)
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