VLADIMIR RIAKHOVSKY: "IT ALWAYS BEGAN WITH JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND THEN IT WAS REFLECTED ON EVERYBODY"
Video by Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 27 March 2017
One of the first laws of the new Russia was the law of 18 October 1991 regarding rehabilitation of victims of political repression. Those who fell within the scope of rehabilitation were those who had been subjected to exile. It was to Jehovah's Witnesses that this pertained in the main. That was the year 1991. What has changed in this time? Have Jehovah's Witnesses changed? No. What has changed in our state in this time? Otherwise how can one explain this thoughtless, to put it mildly, act on the part of the Ministry of Justice which turned into issuing this lawsuit for the liquidation and prohibition of the activity of Jehovah's Witnesses? What kind of consequences might be if this lawsuit were to be granted? According to the Criminal Code, responsibility has been established for participating in the activity that is forbidden as an extremist organization or for organizing this activity and these are such severe sanctions: for participating, from 2 to 6 years incarceration, and for organizing, from 6 to 10 years.
Are there really no controlling or supervisory agencies standing behind this lawsuit? Really no analysts there? No experts? Is there really nobody who can say today what this will lead to tomorrow? Well the first step has been made. The next steps—they will follow from what has already been done. If they ban today, then what does that mean should be tomorrow? There should be criminal prosecutions. Now many are commenting on current circumstances with respect to your religious association. They say: "Come now! It isn't likely that someone will go to this. What, will lock ups really start?" I say that this will simply be inevitable.
There has already been a pilot case. You will recall that in 2015 in Taganrog, where in 2009 a local congregation was banned, in 2012 a surveillance recording was made, establishing the fact of the conduct of a meeting, and a case was initiated, the case dragged on a long time, and in the end, in 2015, came the court's sentence. And even if there just were fines and even if it was a suspended prison term, there were convictions. Here it was a kind of, one may say, touchstone. And what is now? It isn't Taganrog now. It is not an isolated congregation. This is now throughout Russia. What is it? Throughout Russia now will there be imprisonments? They are inevitable, if today . . . Well, today there is still time to rethink--less than two weeks remain—rethink and put a stop to it. And probably it would be more noble to take a step back, because the consequences of this, what could be, are unpredictable.
Many now think that Jehovah's Witnesses have fallen into the list of inconvenient people and this does not affect us; then it seems to me we should not be in delusion. And again, simply look a bit into history, into the history of persecution for religious convictions. It always began with the Jehovah's Witnesses, and then it was reflected onto everybody. It happens, probably, what can one say: "Take care of the Jehovah's Witnesses." Because this will all turn against the rest.
And now this is where I started—about recognizing the victims of political repressions. At that time, in 1991, these very Jehovah's Witnesses were given certificates, such beautiful booklets, that they were thus recognized as victims of political repression. And with these certificates came certain privileges. But what of today? Go back and revise the law on rehabilitation? Maybe rescind it? Or simply have the Witnesses collect all these certifications and give them back? I would very much like to believe that still common sense and justice will prevail. (tr. by PDS, posted 28 March 2017)
Russian transcript posted on website of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 27 March 2017
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