Jehovah's Witnesses do not fit into neo-stalinist Russia


Kavkazskii Uzel, 4 December 2015


The toughening of the sentences in the reconsideration by a court in the case of sixteen Jehovah's Witnesses in Taganrog gives evidence of an intensification of the persecution in Russia of members of this religious organization, experts questioned by Kavkazskii Uzel declared.


Kavkazskii Uzel wrote that as a result of the review of the case of the sixteen Jehovah's Witnesses, who had been found guilty of extremism, the city court of Taganrog on 30 November found all defendants guilty, whereas in the first consideration of this case in 2014 nine of the sixteen had been acquitted. Four of those convicted were given a suspended sentence and the rest were fined. The review of the case was the result of appeals by both the prosecutor's office and the convicts. The latter did not admit their guilt and they sought a verdict of acquittal. The prosecution insisted that the defendants had illegally conducted religious activity after the congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Taganrog was banned by a court and ruled to be extremist.


The sentence issued to the sixteen Jehovah's Witnesses in Taganrod bears an illegal character and they were convicted on trumped up charges, Lev Levinson, an expert of the Institute of Human Rights, thinks.


"This is an even more cruel and harsh attack on Jehovah's Witnesses than earlier. It was this way in our state back in the 1960s, the late 1970s, and in the 1980s. Of course, they did not burn them like the fascists did and I think it will not come to that. But the sentence is even more harsh than was the first sentence for these sixteen members of the congregation, which was cancelled," Levinson emphasized in a commentary for Kavkazskii Uzel.


Jehovah's Witnesses do not comport with the state of the current neo-stalinist society.


The main reason for intensifying pressure on Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia is the "principled pacifism" of the members of this religious organization, the expert thinks.


"They suffered for this from Hitler and in the soviet period they also preferred the prison colony to military service. And in our current neo-stalinist society they, of course, do not comport with the state of this society. Therefore they are not left in peace, and completely artificial and trumped up charges of extremism are advanced, with the help of quotations artificially extracted from their literature. One can find fully similar things both in Orthodox literature and in Christianity as well, and in Judaism and Islam, but members of those confessions are not held accountable for extremism," Lev Levinson noted.


Anatoly Krasikov, the director of the Center for the Study of Problems of Religion and Society of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, commenting on the sentence in the case of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Taganrog, emphasized that the issue really is persecution for faith in violation of the Russian constitution.


"This is violation of legislation and the constitution. They [Jehovah's Witnesses] have been persecuted absolutely illegally for a long time. I have letters from Jehovah's Witnesses about how they have been persecuted, which were written in the soviet period. They also are being persecuted now," Krasikov drew a parallel.


The believers hoped that all 16 defendants would be acquitted, but it turned out exactly the opposite.


The defense of the Jehovah's Witnesses convicted in Taganrog immediately after the issuance of the new sentence in the case declared the intent to appeal it, noting that the judge actually rubber-stamped the indictment without taking into account the argument of the believers.


"The sentence had been overturned by the higher court and the case was remanded for reconsideration in the same court but with a different judge. The believers hoped that a verdict of acquittal would be issued for all 16 defendants, but what happened was exactly the opposite: Judge Vasiutchenko found all to be guilty," a press release of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, published on 3 December on the Slavic Legal Center website, notes.


Kavkazskii Uzel still does not possess commentaries from the prosecution side regarding the new sentence of 16 Jehovah's Witnesses in Taganrog or the evaluation of it by experts presented above. (tr. by PDS, posted 7 January 2016)

Background article:
Taganrog court finally delivers verdict against Jehovah's Witnesses
November 30, 2015

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