Update on harassment of Moscow Jehovah's Witnesses


Credo.Press, 12 February 2021


After a series of searches conducted in Moscow and Moscow suburbs on 10 February in residences of alleged Jehovah's Witnesses, 43-year-old Alexander Serebriakov and 43-year-old Yury Temirbulatov were arrested. On 12 February, the Savelov district court of Moscow is supposed to select for them a measure of restriction, a correspondent of the portal Credo.Press reports, with reference to a source among the Russian Jehovah's Witnesses.


The Investigative Committee of Russia (S.K.R.) officially reported that a criminal case was opened on the basis of the article about arranging and participating in the activity of an extremist organization (parts 1 and 2 of article 282.2 of the CC RF). Believers are accused that "they conducted conspiratorial gatherings in one of the apartments located on Dybenko Street, where adherents studied religious literature and substance contained in other sources of information, promoting the teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses, and they conducted other activities typical for this association. In addition, the organizers conducted online meetings by video link." The case is being investigated by the investigation department of the Northern Administrative District of the main investigation directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the city of Moscow. Early in the morning of 10 February, representatives of the security agencies began gathering with attesting witnesses and camera crews at the entrances to residential buildings in the Khovrino and Levobereg districts of Moscow and also in Khimki and Chekhov (Moscow oblast). A press release of the Investigative Committee says that searches were conducted at 16 addresses of residences of believers, along with the Russian department of internal affairs, and the F.S.B. of Moscow and Moscow oblast, with the support of the Russian Guard. Beginning at 5:30 in the morning, families of Jehovah's Witnesses began reporting to friends and relatives the intrusions into their apartments. At least 14 searches have been confirmed. After the raids, no fewer that 18 believers were interrogated until late in the evening in the buildings of the Investigative Committee.


During one of the searches, the security agents used force on two men, although they did not put up any resistance. After this their hands were bound with plastic straps. When one of the believers was pushed, he fell onto a bed and the strap broke. For this his hands were tied with another three straps. The men remained in such a condition while the search went on. In addition, the security troops used crude curses and uttered demeaning comments against religion. At the conclusion of the search, one of the families noticed that they had been robbed of a large amount of personal savings.


On 20 April 2017, the Russian Supreme Court, on the basis of a lawsuit of the Russian Ministry of Justice, ruled that all 395 Russian legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses were extremist organizations and it banned their activity. At the same time, the Supreme Court did not prohibit the Jehovah's Witnesses' religious teaching itself, particularly the right of citizens to profess it individually or collectively, which is guaranteed by the Russian constitution. Despite this, in the years following the Supreme Court's decision, law enforcement agencies have repressed dozens of Jehovah's Witnesses in nearly all regions of the country, whose guilt comes down to group prayers and reading of religious literature, which is interpreted as "continuation of the activity of an extremist organization." Convicted Jehovah's Witnesses have been recognized as prisoners of conscience by a number of Russian and international rights advocacy organizations. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 February 2021)

Background article:
Jehovah's Witnesses case renewed in Moscow
February 10, 2021

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