BASHKORTOSTAN SUPREME COURT DECIDES NOT TO DEPORT FROM RUSSIA STUDENT FROM GHANA CONVICTED FOR ILLEGAL EVANGELISM
SOVA Center for News and Analysis, 26 June 2017
The Supreme Court of Bashkortostan rescinded the supplementary penalty of a student from Ghana who had been found guilty of "illegal" evangelism, permitting him to not depart from Russia and finish university and receive a degree.
On 20 June 2017 it was learned that the Supreme Court of Bashkortostan overturned an order of a court of first instance regarding the deportation from Russia of a student from Ghana, Salifu Issa.
On 2 June, the October district court of Ufa found him guilty under part 5 of article 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the RF (conducting missionary activity with violation of the requirements of legislation committed by a foreign citizen) because he attended worship services in the "New Generation" church of Christians of Evangelical Faith and he created a religious group "Throne Room of the Trinity," without notifying agencies of government concerning the start of its activity. The court fined him 30,000 rubles, and as a supplementary penalty ordered his deportation from Russia.
Salifu Issa is a student in the final year of the Ufa State University of Petroleum Technology, and deportation would mean that he would not receive a degree. The Supreme Court of the republic left in force the decision of the district court and did not remove from the citizen of Ghana the conviction of illegal evangelism, although it rescinded the additional penalty, giving the student the possibility to complete the university and get a degree. After this, Salifu Issa intends to depart from Russia.
We recall that earlier another Ufa student from
Gideon, was deported from Russia for "illegal" evangelism. (tr. by
PDS, posted 27 June 2017)
UFA PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE BRINGS RELIGIOUS GROUP TO JUSTICE FOR THE FIRST TIME
by Konstantin Andreev*
Invictory, 6 June 2017
The prosecutor's office of Ufa decided in all seriousness to hold administratively accountable a religious group, that is, a religious association that is not a subject of law and which, by definition, cannot act in court.
This is the first instance of a prosecutorial examination of a religious group and attempt to bring it to justice under the notorious article 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the Russian federation.
According to point 2 of article 24.1 of the federal law of 26 September 1997, No. 125, "On freedom of conscience and religious associations: Missionary activity of a religious association is conducted without restriction in buildings and facilities belonging to religious organizations as private property or provided to them on some other property right.
According to point 1 of article 7 of federal law No. 125 "On freedom of conscience and religious associations": Premises and property necessary for the activity of a religious group are provided for the use of the group by its members.
The premises were rented by the leader of the religious group and provided to the group for conducting worship services, ceremonies, and rituals within it in accordance with article 15 of federal law No. 125 "On freedom of conscience and religious associations."
According to point 3 of article 24.1 of federal law No. 125 "On freedom of conscience and religious associations": Religious groups have the right to conduct worship services and other religious rituals and ceremonies and also to carry out teaching of religion and religious education of its devotees.
Point 1 of article 24.1 of federal law No. 125 "On freedom of conscience and religious associations" in the definition of missionary activity gives the concept of two categories of citizens exercising their constitutional freedom within the context of a religious association: members of the association and followers.
A missionary is a person who is authorized by a religious association to conduct activity in accordance with point 1 of article 24.1 of federal law No. 125.
It is obvious that a citizen who participates in worship services, ceremonies, and rituals of a religious association (in accordance with the rules of the confession and in accordance with the internal requirements of the religious association itself) is not to be equated with missionaries. And not all activity of a religious association is evangelism, since the legislature identified different indicators of a religious association: 1) Joint confession of faith; 2) Study of religion; 3) Conduct of worship ceremonies and rituals; 4) and finally missionary activity.
Defining the nature of the actions of a religious association stipulated by the legislation in order to define what is, for it, characteristic worship or missionary activity can be done only by a specialist in religious studies. The prosecutor and court do not possess such specialized knowledge.
Thus, during the legally significant period in the rented premises, the religious association conducted unrestricted religious worship, ceremonies, and rituals. Foreign citizens were not involved in the goals of conducting evangelistic activity in the name of the religious association. The aforesaid foreign citizens participated in worship services, which is guaranteed to them by article 28 of the Russian constitution and article 3 of federal law No. 125 "On freedom of conscience and religious associations."
According to article 28 of the Russian constitution: "Everyone is guaranteed freedom of conscience and freedom of religious confession, including the right to confess individually or in common with others any religion or not to confess any, freely to select, hold, and disseminate religious and other convictions and to act in accordance with them."
According to point 1 of article 3 of federal law No. 125 (version of 6 July 2016) "On freedom of conscience and religious associations": "In the Russian federation are guaranteed freedom of conscience and freedom of religious confession, including the right to confess individually or jointly with others any religion or not to confess any, to conduct worship services and other religious rituals and ceremonies, and to carry out study of religion and religious education, freely to select and to change, to hold, and to disseminate religious and other convictions and to act in accordance with them, including the creation of religious associations.
"Foreign citizens and persons without citizenship, who are legally on the territory of the Russian federation, enjoy the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religious confession on a par with citizens of the Russian federation, and they bear responsibility established by federal laws for violation of legislation on freedom of conscience, freedom of religious confession, and on religious associations."
In accordance with subpoint 2 of point 1 of article 24.5 of the Russian Code on Administrative Violations of Law: 1. Proceedings on a case of administrative violation of law cannot be begun, and proceedings already begun are subject to termination on condition of one of the following circumstances: 1) absence of activity of administrative violation of law; 2) absence of the substance of an administrative violation of law.
On the basis of the aforesaid, proceedings in the case should be terminated because of the absence of action and substance of an administrative violation of law.
In the opinion of the prosecutor's office, the guilt of the leader of the religious group consisted in the fact that, in addition to members of the religious group itself, members of other religious associations and foreign citizens participated in an organized conference.
Inasmuch as African Christians were in active correspondence in a group on the social network "V kontakte," created by a citizen of the republic of Ghana, Salifu Issa, the prosecutor's office considered them to be a religious group, created without notification about the start of activity of a religious group, in violation of part 2 of article 7 of the federal law. The prosecutor's office did not care that religious associations may be created only by citizens who live permanently on the territory of the RF. The African students were residing on the territory of the RF on temporary student visas.
The crime of the African students consisted in the fact that they regularly assembled together because of common interest in the Christian faith and they attended services of other such "religious groups" and organizations, including performing prayers with members and followers of other religious groups, that is, in the opinion of the prosecutor's office they were thus conducting missionary activity.
Violation of the law on the basis of part 2 of article 18.8 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the RF on the part of the Africans, in the opinion of the prosecutor's office, was also expressed in noncompliance with the declared purpose of entry into the Russian federation for study, while they preached in churches. The fact that the students did this in their time free from studies did not at all bother the prosecutor's office.
And so these foreign lawbreakers involved in turn a Russian, the leader of the Ufa religious group, who drew them into committing illegal missionary activity which was manifested in the fact that he invited them to worship services while the Africans were not members of the group.
Thereby the Ufa prosecutor's office actually established the essence of law violation manifested in the fact that it was not only its members who participated in the service conducted by the religious group. And since several of them during the service prayed and preached, then in the opinion of the prosecutor's office they conducted missionary activity in the name of the religious group that invited them. The guilt of the leader of the group consisted in the fact that he did not register the persons who prayed and preached as missionaries.
This is undoubtedly a new word in law enforcement and it is worthy of entering into history as an example of blatant unprofessionalism and incompetence.
The Ufa prosecutor's office did not establish
circumstances mitigating the responsibility of the leader of the
group. . . . (tr. by PDS, posted 27 June 2017)
*Konstantin Andreev is a bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession, a Christian attorney, and member of the Expert Council of the Committee on Affairs of Public Associations and Religious Organizations of the State Duma of the Russian federation.
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