Orthodox activist fined for criticizing lockdown of churches in Russia


by Regina Khisamova

Idel.Realii, 26 August 2020


During the "self-isolation phase" in Tatarstan, Mikhail Shcheglov sent to the president of Tatarstan a request to permit Orthodox residents of the republic to attend churches during the religious holidays.


The Supreme Court of Tatarstan left in force the original decision about a fine of 10,000 rubles of the leader of the Society of Russian Culture, Mikhail Shcheglov, for statements about "persecution of Christians." They had previously been ruled to be "extremist." Idel.Realii was told about this by the activist himself.


"This is a far-fetched decision, a far-fetched expert analysis," Mikhail Shcheglov thinks. "This is clearly connected with my lawsuit against Ilyshat Aminov (the director general of TNV [New Age Television and Radio Co.]; in December 2019 the prosecutor's office of Kazan found violations of the law in Aminov's words about 'home-grown narrow minded ignoramuses,' who oppose teaching the Tatar language, after which Shcheglov filed a lawsuit in court—Idel.Realii), on the basis of a civil suit concerning demeaning of honor and dignity. Because his broadcast in November of last year was outrageous. There is an expert conclusion regarding this. I will sue him in civil court. I did not want to pedal this topic, because I understood that because of this the publication Tatmedia would start shooting at me with all guns blazing. Nevertheless, he made a disproportionate step; he took and wrote a denunciation of me."


In the spring of this year, during the "self-isolation phase" in Tatarstan, Mikhail Shcheglov sent to President Rustam Minnikhanov a request to permit Orthodox residents of the republic attend churches during religious holidays. He wrote that as of 14 April, only 107 cases of infection had been registered in Tatarstan and there was not one fatality. The social activist called the situation regarding closure of churches on Easter "persecution of Christians."


"Well anyhow, under current conditions a ban on attending Orthodox churches in the republic of Tatarstan does not seem to be concern for the health of people but some form of fighting God and of new persecutions of Christians. And this is profoundly symbolic for a 'national' republic with a definite clear demographic tilt that is not by any means in Orthodox believers' favor," he is sure.


The leader of the Azatlik Union of Tatar Youth, Nail Nabiullin, thinks these statements by Shcheglov are "dangerous," since some citizens may want, after reading these posts, to go to church for the holiday. And in the mass gathering of people they will become infected with the coronavirus. He sent a statement to the office of prosecutor indicating that in this case there may be found evidence of law violations on the basis of articles 6.3 and 20.6 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the RF ('Incitement of hatred or strife as well as demeaning of human dignity')."


The prosecutor's office sent Mikhail Shcheglov's statements for expert analysis. It was conducted by the Kazan Inter-regional Center for Expert Analysis (they win the bids from Tatmedia and the Public Chamber and also participate rather often in preparation of forensic expert analysis in the context of criminal cases of extremism and terrorism). In the end they found extremism in the activist's words.


In late August, the Vakhitov district court of Kazan fined Shcheglov 10,000 rubles on the basis of article 20.3.1 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the RF.


In Tatarstan, attending churches and mosques was forbidden from 14 April. Accordingly, it was forbidden "for citizens to visit liturgical premises, buildings, and structures and the plots of land on which such buildings and structures are located, and also to participate in religious rituals and ceremonies conducted in said buildings and territories." Clergy themselves may attend churches and mosques. Rituals may be performed in accordance with all religious canons, but behind closed doors. (tr. by PDS, posted 29 August 2020)

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