Jehovah's Witness recounts torture by security troops


How the searches went in homes of Irkutsk Jehovah's Witnesses

by Elizabeta Nesterova

Mediazona, 13 October 2021


Note: The present communication (article) was created and/or distributed by a foreign news medium performing the function of a foreign agent, and/or by a Russian legal entity performing the function of a foreign agent.


On 4 October, in Irkutsk oblast, security forces conducted widespread searches in the homes of Jehovah's Witnesses. According to the believers, the investigative actions were accompanied by beatings and were conducted on orders "directly from Moscow." One of the devotees of the teaching, Anatoly Razdabarov, described for Mediazona how the operatives threatened to rape him with a bottle for refusing to disclose the password on his telephone and then took all the money and equipment from the house.


The wave of searches in the homes of Jehovah's Witnesses in Irkutsk oblast began at six in the morning of 4 October and continued until evening. The investigation thinks that the believers have continued the work of their organization, "Central, Irkutsk," after it had been ruled to be extremist and liquidated by a court in 2017. Agents of the directorate of the Russian F.S.B. and the "E" Center participated in the searches, along with troops of the Grom special forces and the National Guard. On the next day, the October district court jailed several Jehovah's Witnesses on the basis of a case regarding an extremist organization (part 1, article 282.2 of the CC). This is the first instance of the prosecution of believers in this region.


Searches in Irkutsk were conducted at 12 addresses. A representative of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, Yaroslav Sivulsky, described for Mediazona how in some cases "the intrusion was made through a broken window or a balcony door."


"According to one of the investigators, the order for conducting the raid came directly from Moscow," he said.


After the visit by the siloviki, several Jehovah's Witnesses had to get medical help, Sivulsky notes. Thus, the 23-year-old Nikolai Merinov's teeth were broken. The search began with one of the operatives striking him in the face "with a heavy, blunt object." After the blow, Merinov fell to the floor and lost consciousness, and when he came to the special forces soldier "sat on him and struck him with multiple blows," Sivulsky related.


After the search, Merinov went for a medical examination and recorded his injuries. His wife, Lilia, went with him to see the doctors. Special agents dragged her from the bed by her hair, twisted her arms, and handcuffed her, and then, taking Lilia into the room neighboring her husband "kicked and shoved" her, the representative of the Jehovah's Witnesses affirms.


The 31-year-old Anatoly Razdabarov and his wife, Greta, were visiting relatives the night of 3-4 October and they became among the first who encountered the siloviki that day.


"We were not even in our own home. We came to visit Greta's parents; we come once or twice a week. There are two houses on the lot—the parents' and the other belonging to Greta's sister. She and her husband live there. They also were searched then," Anatoly relates.


The operatives entered the house unhindered; the entry door was not locked. Anatoly and Greta were in the bedroom. Razdabarov maintains that his wife was dragged out of the bed by her hair and she was handcuffed, without being allowed to dress. In this condition she was put face down to the floor in the next room. Only after half an hour was she permitted to get dressed.


Razdabarov says that he also was immediately thrown to the floor and handcuffed. "They began beating me as soon as they entered, about the head and kidneys, because I began shouting and asking what they were doing there." After looking around the siloviki found Anatoly's telephone and demanded he unlock it and when he refused to give the password, he says, they beat him on his fingers. Then the operatives tried to get access to the telephone through FaceID. "They began lifting me by my arms shackled behind my back in order to raise my head and bring the telephone to my face, but the facial recognition did not work. Then they tugged even harder on my hands; this was most painful. It hurt like hell."


After several minutes of beating, the operatives found a glass bottle in the room. Razdabarov recounts the following dialogue with the investigator: "So now, don't you remember the password? You better talk or we will tear your ass." "I didn't recall." "So, guys; go to work."


After these words the investigator left, and two operatives pinned Razdabarov to the floor. "They sat on my legs and a third tried to shove the bottle there [into the anus] but they did not succeed. Frankly, I think, they wanted to frighten me because if they had wanted to, they surely would have stuffed it in." After this the operatives left the room briefly. "And so one returned with a poker and he asked whether I knew what it was. But I was lying with my back to him and I couldn't see it. He said: this is a poker and I will heat it right away and I will burn you until you say the passwords."


After the unsuccessful attempts to unlock Razdabarov's phone, the operatives left him lying on the floor and went off to search the house. They did not remove the handcuffs from Anatoly and did not let him dress. They just threw a blanket onto him. "They probably covered me merely because I was there shivering from the cold. Well, perhaps not from the cold but probably from everything."


Anatoly said that he lay on the floor a rather long time. His hands and fingers became numb from the handcuffs and he tried to shift his position. "I began to feel sick and became very nauseated, and then they got scared and began to ask whether I had a chronic illness. Well, I recently had a tumor removed from my head. I told them this and only after that did they pick me up and refasten the handcuffs in front."


After the search, all the money and technology were taken from the house. Anatoly and Greta were released. Greta's sister's husband was taken for questioning and his father, 63-year-old Nikolai Martynov, was arrested. Razdabarov underwent a medical examination and registered his wounds, filed a complaint with the Investigative Committee and the prosecutor's office, and also reported the tortures to the ombudsman for human rights.


On the basis of the results of the searches that were conducted in Irkutsk oblast on 4 October, seven persons remained in the temporary holding cell for trial. On 5 October, the court sent 52-year-old Yaroslav Kalin, 34-year-old Mikhail Moish, and 45-year-old Aleksei Solnechny to a SIZO [pretrial investigation cell] for two months. On the next day the court selected a measure of restriction for four other Jehovah's Witnesses. The 61-year-old Sergei Kosteev, 63-year-old Nikolai Martynov, and 46-year-old Andrei Tolmachev were sent to the SIZO for two months, and the 70-year-old Sergei Vasilev was placed under house arrest.


On 5 October, about 100 persons gathered at the October district court, including those who had been visited by the siloviki. "Well it was necessary to come to support the people. So that they would see us or at least hear us," Anatoly Razdabarov explains. He and his wife, Greta, also were at the October district court. "My wife is brave. Of course she was there the whole day, but I went to work. I am still a man, and the search and all the rest was harder on her. But she still came to the courthouse." (tr. by PDS, posted 13 October 2021)

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