Jehovah's Witnesses locked up without bail for two months


Kavkazskii Uzel, 9 August 2020


Believers Aleksei Gorely, Evgeny Pazumov, Nikita Moiseev, and Oleg Shidlovsky were placed in detention until 6 October. This decision was made today [Sunday] by a Rostov court. All four were arrested yesterday during a series of searches in homes of Jehovah's Witnesses.


The court did not heed the arguments of lawyers who asked for house arrest for the believers


Today Judge Vladimir Strokov of the Lenin district court of Rostov-on-Don considered the petition of an investigator for three and a half hours regarding detention of the four Jehovah's Witnesses, who were arrested on 8 August. More than 10 persons arrived to support the believers; however only the closest relatives were allowed into the courtroom, a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondents reports, who was at the courthouse but was not admitted into the courtroom.


The first escort guard conducted the 40-year-old bookkeeper Aleksei Gorely into the courtroom, and the second, the 40-year-old driller Evgeny Razumov, and then in separate sessions the court selected a measure of restraint for the 30-year-old carpenter and household appliance repairman Nikita Moiseev and the 60-year-old physical education teacher of a boarding school Oleg Shidlovsky. Moiseev lives in Kamensk-Shakhtinsk, Gorely lives in Rostov-on-Don, and the others, in Gukovo.


The investigator explained in court that on 7 August a case was opened based on part 1 of article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code—"arranging the activity of an extremist organization." Despite the fact that the suspects did not acknowledge their guilt, the investigator insisted that if left at liberty they might hide from the investigation and the court, put pressure on witnesses, and conspire with other participants to destroy evidence. A representative of the prosecutor's office also considered the detention of all four to be appropriate, lawyers of the suspects told the Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent.


The defense cited the fact that all suspects have a permanent place of residence and live with families, and they asked for giving their clients house arrest. Oleg Shidlovsky has a wife who has a second-class disability and is dependent upon him. The lawyers maintain that the only evidence in the case are reports of a secret witness. But the investigator and representative of the prosecutor's office did not support the request of the suspects' lawyers for house arrest.


In the end, the court selected for all four defendants a measure of restraint in the form of detention in custody until 6 October. All lawyers of the defendants intend to appeal the court's decision.


Security agents conducted 14 searches in homes of Jehovah's Witnesses


People who came to the courthouse to support the believers told a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent that on 8 August, no fewer than 14 searches were conducted in homes of Jehovah's Witnesses in Rostov oblast, including in Gukovo, Kamensk-Shakhtinsk, and Rostov-on-Don.


"I was at home when they came to our house for my husband. I personally opened the door when they knocked. They knocked somewhere around 18.45 (Kavkazskii Uzel determined it was 11.50 Moscow time on 10 August 2020). I immediately realized that it wasn't the neighbor from the force of the knock, and I went to open the door, since I know of cases where if there is no quick answer nothing is left at the door. The investigator came in, along with witnesses and three OMON troops. They immediately showed the warrant; my husband read it and then they began conducting the search. They began in the kitchen, and then the bath and toilet, the hall and bedroom. They examined gradually, opening closets and taking out things. Our child was sleeping; he will be just seven years old. Perhaps they took this into account and therefore the search was conducted rather properly. Things were taken out but nothing was strewn about," Aleksei Gorely's wife, Inna Gorelaia, described the search that occurred on 8 August.


According to the woman, the security personnel took from her husband his work notebook, smart phone, old-fashioned phone, hard disks with photographs, and a flash drive. "My telephone and the child's tablet were left. We gave them the password and the investigator flipped through it and did not confiscate it. As to religious things, there was only the Bible in the synodal translation. We told them about this right away and they responded that it wasn't needed. They took my husband's notebook with notes. Before the prohibition [by the Supreme Court in 2017—tr.] we had congresses. They found several notebooks from those years and they confiscated them, too. They also found a handwritten text with a letter from an acquaintance. That's what I saw. I was in another room with the child," the believer explained.


The woman said the search ended at 21.10 (9:10 p.m., Kavkazskii Uzel's clarification, 11.50 Moscow time on 10 August 2020). "My husband left with them in a vehicle and the investigator stayed with me. He did not put pressure on me. He conversed calmly. I answered that we could use article 51 of the constitution (about the fact that nobody is required to give testimony against himself and near relatives—Kavkazskii Uzel note). An affidavit of the seizures was drawn up and they let me photograph it, but the affidavit about the search, they said, could not be photographed. My husband managed to tell me that they were being fed in the holding cell, but the water was bad. I delivered things to the temporary holding cell and he managed to tell me that they delivered everything to him," Inna Gorelaia told the Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent.


As of 9 August 2020, the number of Jehovah's Witnesses who have been criminally prosecuted in Rostov oblast had reached 13, seven of whom are in custody and two are in house arrest, Kavkazskii Uzel calculated. (tr. by PDS, posted 10 August 2020)


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