CRIMINAL CASE OPENED IN MOSCOW FOR ARRANGING ACTIVITY OF EXTREMIST ORGANIZATION
Website of chief investigation department of S.K.R., 24 November 2020
The first department for investigation of especially important cases of crimes against persons and public safety of the Chief Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee of Russia [S.K.R.; analogous to American F.B.I.—tr.] for the city of Moscow opened a criminal case on the basis of evidence of crimes identified in parts 1, 1.1, and 2 of article 282.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (arranging the activity of an extremist organization).
The basis for opening the criminal case was material concerning the arranging in Moscow of the activity of the "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" and its structural subdivisions, which had been ruled to be extremist organizations by decision of the Russian Supreme Court.
According to the account of the investigation, in the period from June 2019 to the present time, a group of persons, who were aware that the decision of the Supreme Court had taken legal effect, arranged in the area of northeastern Moscow the work of a local religious subdivision of the aforementioned organization. Conspiratorial assemblies occurred in one of the apartments located on Cheliuskin Street, where adherents studied religious literature and information contained in other sources of information that promoted the teaching of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and they conducted other activity characteristic for this association. It was also determined that members of the subdivision persuaded and recruited new members from among residents of the capital and other regions for participating in a prohibited religious movement.
Investigators of the capital's chief department, along with the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the F.S.B. of Russia, with support from the Russian Guard, conducted searches in the city of Moscow and more than 20 regions of the country.
At the present time, a number of organizers and members of the movement have been identified and detained, who will be taken to a field office of the Investigative Committee in order to conduct necessary investigative measures. The investigation is continuing. (tr. by PDS, posted 25 November 2020)
SECURITY FORCES DESCEND UPON JEHOVAH'S KINGDOM
S.K.R. exposes safe house and foreign currency stash
Fontanka, 24 November 2020
A criminal case was opened after the work of the forbidden administrative center of Jehovah's Witnesses was revived. The cell operated in the capital, but the success of recruiters is being proven in dozens of regions.
As the investigative bureau reports, on 24 November investigators, police, F.S.B., and Russian Guards conducted searches in more than twenty regions of the country for the case concerning extremism. Its base is an apartment in northwestern Moscow, where the administrated center of the organization has been located.
According to the investigation's account, since June of last year, devotees have regularly gathered on Cheliuskin Street for group study of religious literature and also for recruiting Muscovites and residents of other cities. The Investigative Committee has indicated how security forces uncovered the safe house. There they found not only books, but also the budget of the organization in rubles, dollars, and euros.
"A number of organizers and members of the movement have been identified and detained, who will be taken to a department of the bureau for conducting the necessary investigatory measures," the bureau's report says.
According to Fontanka's information, searches were not conducted on Tuesday in St. Petersburg, despite the fact that the city's division as well as the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses itself have been banned by decision of the Supreme Court in 2017.
After the ban of the organization, its property was confiscated in the state's favor and criminal cases were opened against Jehovists. In St. Petersburg, a complex in the elite village of Solnechnoe, worth two billion rubles, was seized from an American legal entity to which the administrative center had transferred the real estate on the basis of a donation contract.
In late 2018, Vladimir Putin, at a meeting of members of the presidential Council on Human Rights, called the idea of equating representatives of religious communities with members of terrorist organizations "nonsense." A representative of the president later commented on the prosecution of Jehovists, against the backdrop of Putin's position: "We cannot operate, for governmental purposes, with common sense concepts." (tr. by PDS, posted 25 November 2020)
WHAT IS KNOWN ABOUT STORMING OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES' OFFICES AND APARTMENTS
Ren TV, 24 November 2020
This morning, around ten apartments and offices had to be taken by storm in Moscow within the framework of an operation against adherents of the sect of Jehovah's Witnesses (the activity of this religious organization is forbidden in the R.F.).
The activity of this organization has been forbidden in our country for three years now, but in fact the structure of the sect has been maintained and its devotees continue to recruit new members; all the work is merely conducted underground now.
They have operated quietly, they did not advertise a great deal, and a sign of the forbidden organization "Jehovah's Witnesses" was not hung on the door, but they nevertheless were found. To be sure, it wasn't the devotees of the movement who entered the apartment, but the investigators. During the search they discovered stashes of cash. Two hundred thousand rubles were allocated for economic needs and what 20 thousand dollars are for is unknown. In all likelihood, these are all donations that adherents made. Also discovered were dubious literature and agitation brochures. This all was forbidden three years back. That was when the Jehovah's Witnesses organization was placed on the list of extremist organizations. Devotees of the teaching have often left their families, remained alone, were bereft of all their property, and rejected medical assistance.
Special attention was paid the apartment where the supposed leader of the sect lived—the door was smashed, and several other agents climbed on a work platform and entered the apartment through a window. The so-called administrative center has been operating almost a year and a half. In that time its creators managed to produce a multitude of pamphlets and expand activity in 20 regions.
"It was also determined that members of the subdivision persuaded and recruited new members from among residents of the capital and other regions," the senior assistant of the chief of the S.K.R. for the city of Moscow, Julia Ivanova, commented.
Moreover, all leaders lived nearby, in the same region, and this was their primary work. The spouse of one of the detainees, on whom forbidden books were found, affirms that she did not know about any sect. And the literature was supposedly for herself. But none of the neighbors noticed anything strange, they say, and they really did not see or hear anything. They did not draw attention to themselves.
Adherents of the Jehovah's Witnesses have been arrested throughout the country. For example, in Tomsk. Prayers also were conducted and lectures given in an ordinary apartment. The main task is recruitment of new members. In Penza, agents found receipts according to which hundreds of devotees gave their money for the needs of the forbidden organization. Here they preached the superiority of parishioners over other people. And the major part of the money probably went abroad for development of the organization. To the main office, in the U.S.A. Quite recently they built an enormous cluster of buildings, apparently on those same donations. There are millions of adherents of the sect throughout the world; in Russia alone they now number around 100,000 devotees.
"All their activity is mainly of a surreptitious nature. As of the present, one of the primary means of recruitment is personal contact in medical institutions and in hospices and nursing homes. In principle, they have one goal: to catch as many people as possible, squeeze out as much money as possible, and use people as much as possible for their own unseemly purposes," attorney Alexander Korelov explained.
Yet another means of recruitment is a portable stand with forbidden materials and brochures. There soon will be a trial in St. Petersburg in which the device of the sectarians should be ruled to be extremist. Throughout the country there now are more than 80 criminal cases being investigated against adherents of the Jehovah's Witnesses movement, which is forbidden in Russia. And the status of the leaders of the administrative center, those whose apartments were searched today, will be different; most of the witnesses will be turned into defendants and presently measures of restriction will be selected for them. (tr. by PDS, posted 25 November 2020)
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