News report slanders Jehovah's Witnesses by linking them with Islamic State


Investigation continues regarding the rest

by Eva Rudion

Sia-Press, 18 February 2019


A charge of arranging the activity of an extremist organization has been filed against three detainees in a case of Jehovah's Witnesses in Surgut. They are being held in custody. The investigation regarding other suspects is continuing. A correspondent of Sia-Press was told this by the acting senior assistant to the director for relations with news media of the Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee of Russia (S.K.R.) for the Khanty-Mansi autonomous district (Yugra), Oleg Menshikh.


The representative of the agency did not indicate the exact number of detainees and suspects. It is known that as the result of an operation for putting an end to the activity of the extremist organization, more than ten of the most active members of the religious organizations were detained. "Investigators of the S.K.R. in cooperation with personnel of the Russian F.S.B. for Tiumen oblast and the directorate of the Russian M.V.D. and directorate of the Russian Guard for Khanty-Mansi autonomous district—Yugra—in the city of Surgut conducted numerous searches in places of residence and work of members of the forbidden organization, during which extremist literature, computers, cell phones, and other objects having significance for the investigation were seized," the agency specified.


Menshikh also denied a report that one of the Jehovah's Witnesses was arrested at the result of a special operation on Lenin Prospect in Surgut: "No, other agencies were working there." Earlier a Sia-Press source in the power structures insisted that it was a Jehovist who was caught in the center of the city. However after the publication of this report, the agency, citing its own sources, reported the liquidation of a "sleeper cell" of ISIS (which is forbidden in Russia) in Surgut. This report could not be officially confirmed. (tr. by PDS, posted 18 February 2019)



Kommersant, 16 February 2019


The Investigative Committee of Russia (S.K.R.) reported the detention in Surgut of activists of the extremist organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, which is forbidden in Russia. The report on the website of the regional department of the agency says that a criminal case was opened on the basis of incidents of arranging the activity of an extremist organization (parts 1 and 2 of article 282.2 of Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) and recruitment and other means of involvement of persons in its activity (part 1.1 of article 282.2 of CCRF). Charges will be filed against the detainees in the near future, after which the question of selection of measures of pretrial restriction will be resolved. The S.K.R. did not specify how many persons were detained.


Jehovah's Witnesses is an international religious organization, founded in the U.S.A. in the 1870s. The Jehovah's Witnesses were registered in March 1991 in the Ministry of Justice of the RSFSR. On 20 April 2017, the Russian Supreme Court ruled the religious organization to be extremist and liquidated it. According to information of the investigation, the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in the city of Surgut (a subdivision of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia) conducted propaganda work among the population of Surgut. "Members of the extremist organization conducted conversations with citizens, participated in conspiratorial meetings, distributed forbidden literature among the populace, and conducted recruitment of new members of the extremist organization," the report says.


The S.K.R. added that in Surgut, "numerous searches were carried out in places of residence and work of members of the forbidden organization, during which extremist literature, computers, cell phones, and other items having significance for the investigation were seized."


In January, the Russian government submitted a response to the European Court of Human Rights to an itemized appeal of the Jehovah's Witnesses, who had appealed the liquidation of their organization in Russia and confiscation of its property, valued (as they claim) at around 80 million euros. Russia requests that the claim of the Jehovists not be granted. (tr. by PDS, posted 18 February 2019)



Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 15 February 2019


Early in the morning of 15 February 2019, in Surgut, Liantor, and other residential areas of Khanty-Mansi autonomous district, large-scale searches were conducted in homes of citizens who are suspected of professing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. According to incomplete information, 15 persons were arrested and taken to investigative agencies.


It is not known whether these raids were related to the investigation of a criminal case in Urai (Khanty-Mansi), in the context of which a 38-year-old father of two children, Andrei Sazonov, has already been placed behind bars.


A case was opened by the Investigative Committee of Russia for the alleged arranging of and participation in activity of an extremist organization.


Searches among believers numbering in the hundreds are turning the lives of people who are not guilty of anything into a nightmare, undermine their health, cause deep emotional traumas, and cast a shadow on their reputation in the eyes of neighbors, employers, and other people.


Law enforcement mistakenly views the religious confession of citizens as participation in the activity of an extremist organization. This problem has engaged the attention of prominent public figures of Russia, the Council on Human Rights under the Russian president, the Russian president, and also international organizations—the Foreign Policy Service of the European Union, observers of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the office of the United Nations high commissioner for human rights. Jehovah's Witnesses do not have anything to do with extremism and insist on their complete innocence. The government of Russia has frequently declared that the decisions of Russian courts for liquidation and prohibition of organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses "do not give an assessment of the religious teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses and do not contain restriction or prohibition of professing individually the aforementioned teaching." (tr. by PDS, posted 18 February 2019)


Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 14 February 2019


On 8 February 2019, Arkady Koba, a judge of the Khanty-Mansi district court, ordered to place Andrei Sazanov, a 38-year-old husband and father, who is believed to be a Jehovah's Witness, in a SIZO (pretrial investigation cell). Several days earlier, on 31 January 2019, the Russian Investigative Committee opened a criminal case on the basis of parts 1 and 2 of article 282.2 of the CCRF (arranging and participating in activity of an extremist organization) against him and other residents of Urai (Khanty-Mansi autonomous district).


Previously, on 6 February 2019, large-scale searches were conducted in the homes of Jehovah's Witnesses in the city. . . . (tr. by PDS, posted 18 February 2019)

Background article: Jehovah's Witnesses in Russian north targeted
February 7, 2019

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