Record number of searches of Jehovah's Witnesses in Voronezh


Novaia Gazeta, 16 July 2020


During widespread arrests in Voronezh oblast of followers of the Jehovah's Witnesses (an organization ruled by a court to be extremist and banned in Russia), personnel of law enforcement agencies beat two believers. In all, on Monday, 13 July, searches were conducted at 110 addresses in seven settlement areas of the region, a record number since the prohibition of the confession in 2017.


As Novaia Gazeta was told in the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, during searches security troops demanded from two victims the passwords to their smart phones. Thus, 30-year-old Alexander Bokov "suffered several blows about the face, head, and ribs," and then he was "forced to do push-ups and squats to exhaustion." Twenty-three-year-old Dmitry Katyrov, who came to his home during the searches, "was thrown to the floor and kicked in his back and neck, and his hands were pried open in order to unlock the telephone with his fingerprint."


Before the men were taken away for interrogation, security forces threatened them with further beatings if they reported the beatings to doctors. Despite this, after the interrogations to which several dozen believers were taken, they recorded the injuries they received at medical clinics. The believers did not specify just which agency the troops came from who beat them, but according to official information, the investigators from the Investigative Committee [S.K.R.] were aided in conducting the searches by police and troops of the Russian Guard.


After interrogation in the building of the "E Center," most of the Voronezh Jehovah's Witnesses remained in the status of witnesses, but ten believers were transferred to the status of suspects in a case regarding arranging the work of a forbidden organization (article 282.2 of the CC). On 14 and 15 July, the Lenin court of Voronezh sent them to a SIZO for two months, at the request of the S.K.R.


Representatives of the confession reported that one of the detainees, 44-year-old Yury Galka, also was knocked off his feet and forced face-down to the floor after his door was broken open, although they still have not managed to determine whether he was injured as a result. A S.K.R. press release about the arrests did not mention the use of force on the believers. (tr. by PDS, posted 26 July 2020)

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