Russian officials nether deny nor confirm torture of Jehovah's Witnesses


Interfax-Religiia, 22 February 2019


Investigation agencies have begun a verification of information about torture of detained representatives of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, which is forbidden in the RF, that allegedly was applied to them during interrogation in Surgut, the senior assistant of the director of the Investigation Department of the S.K.R. for KhMAO, Oleg Menshikh, told Interfax.


"We still do not have official statements about tortures. But, in view of the uproar that has been raised after publication of this information in news media, it was decided to conduct a pre-investigation verification," he said.


The news agency's source explained that during the verification, investigators who worked with the detainees and also the Jehovists themselves will be questioned.


The office of the commissioner for human rights in the KhMAO told the news agency that the regional ombudsman, Natalia Strebkova, also began an inquiry and plans to meet with Jehovists.


Earlier local news media, citing the website called "Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia," reported that in Surgut, torture was applied to detained Jehovists during interrogations.


In February, law enforcement agencies in Surgut liquidated a local cell of the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses. The most active members of the organization were arrested and a criminal case was opened. (tr. by PDS, posted 22 February 2019)



Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 20 February 2019


On 16 February 2019, the hot line of the Investigative Committee of Russia (S.K.R.) received a report with a request to take measures against an inspector of the Surgut department of the S.K.R. for KhMao—Yugra, Dmitry Leonidovich Asmolov, in connection with reports arriving about tortures during intervals between his interrogations, conducted on the first floor of the building of the Investigative Committee of Russia on Ostrovsky St., 47, in Surgut.


On 15 and 16 February 2019, at least seven peaceful Jehovah's Witnesses were subjected to tortures—electric shock, choking until losing consciousness, and refined beating. After the tortures the examiners forced them to answer questions: "Where do meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses occur? Who comes to meetings? What are the names of elders? What is the password of your telephone?"


According to believers' reports, tortures were applied in intervals between interrogations, which were conducted by the following examiners: inspector for especially important cases of the investigation department for the city of Surgut of the S.U. S.K.R. for KhMAO—Yugra, Stepan Vladmirovich Tkach; inspector of the Surgut department of the S.U. S.K.R. for KhMAO—Yugra, Dmitry Leonidovich Asmolov; and inspecter Sergei Alekseevich Bogodelov. After the tortures, the investigators help the believers recover consciousness, offered them water and paper towels, and gently reproved them for the fact that the believers brought the "unpleasantness" upon themselves by not communicating.


Those of the believers who were released documented the physical injuries and appealed to supervisory agencies, including the prosecutor general of the Russian Federation, outlining the circumstances of what happened.


After the report about the tortures of 57-year-old Sergei Loginov reached the hot line, he was immediately released, although after this he was arrested again and forced under torture to write a statement that nobody had tortured him. After this he was still not permitted to go home. It is unknown what is happening now with him in the SIZO, along with two other detainees, 42-year-old Evgeny Fedin and 52-year-old Artur Severinchik. (tr. by PDS, posted 22 February 2019)


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