Media coverage of harassment of Jehovah's Witnesses


Kavkazskii Uzel, 26 August 2016


In Budennovsk in Stavropol territory on 24 August law enforcement agents conducted a search in a building where a Jehovah's Witnesses service was being conducted. During the search, forbidden books were planted, the press service of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia reported.


The search was conducted by a group of persons in civilian clothing, who demanded that the Jehovah's Witnesses' service cease. The representatives of law and order did not identify themselves, but they presented an order of a Stavropol territorial court for conducting operational search activities.


They demanded that all attending the service leave the building and they prohibited making a video, then they dispersed about the rooms for conducting searches, after which they found several publications from the Federal List of Extremist Materials.


In the information section in Kavkazskii Uzel the nationwide list of materials ruled by a court to be extremist was published. In accordance with article 13 of the federal law "On combating extremist activity," this list "is subject to periodic publication in news media."


At the same time a search was also conducted in the apartment of the chairman of the local religious organization, during with nothing that is prohibited was discovered. Despite that, the hard drive of his computer was taken along with literature that is not included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials.


In the report about what happened in Budennovsk, the press service of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia states that "the brazen planting of literature coupled with crude disruption of worship services has become in recent time a distinguishing indicator of the aggressive campaign against believers," and also that "Jehovah's Witnesses are diligent to see that literature from the Federal List of Extremist Materials is not kept on their premises."


Kavkazskii Uzel does not have at its disposal comments by representatives of law enforcement agencies of Stavropol territory regarding these statements. There is no information on the website of the Stavropol directorate of the Russian MVD about activity conducted by the police on 24 August in Budennovsk with respect to Jehovah's Witnesses, as of 9:30 Moscow time on 26 August.


We recall that on 25 March, law enforcement personnel conducted a search in a Jehovah's Witnesses house of worship located in Stavropol. After that the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia also reported the planting of extremist materials, expressing the opinion that the authorities are conducting a deliberate policy of combating the organization.


Lev Levinson, an expert of the Institute of Human Rights, thinks that the reason for pressure on Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia is the "principled pacifism" of members of this religious organization. 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, Anatoly Krasikov, is sure that Jehovah's Witnesses, specifically in Taganrog, are persecuted for their faith, in violation of the Russian constitution.


Previously Kavkazskii Uzel has written about a number of criminal cases in other regions of the south of Russia with regard to followers of the international organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, particularly in Taganrog and Abinsk. Believers there also were accused of distributing publications that are included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials. At the same time, the Jehovah's Witnesses themselves think that they are persecuted for their religious convictions.  (tr. by PDS, posted 28 August 2016)

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