STORIES OF SURGUT JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES ABOUT TORTURES IN S.K.R. SHOCK YUGRA OMBUDSMAN
Znak.com, 25 February 2019
The plenipotentiary for human rights in Yugra, Natalia Strebkova, today, 25 February, met with adherents of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, which is forbidden in Russia, who earlier reported about abuses and tortures on the part of Surgut security personnel. As Strebkova herself told Znak.com, the meeting with the adherents occurred in the building of the Surgut department of the Investigative Committee of Russia (S.K.R.) to which arrested Jehovists were taken during a special operation on 15 February. Besides 11 adherents, the meeting also was attended by the chief of this department, Vladimir Ermolaev. "I admit to you that what these people described at the meeting, with these horrible details, all of this shocked me."
"I cannot describe for you in detail, since nobody has authorized me to do so. But what they said, I registered it all, documented it. I will send all of these materials to the Investigation Department of the S.K.R. for Yugra and to the prosecutor's office of the region. All of this will be gone through. I can say that in the Investigation Department of the S.K.R. for the region today, they are very interested in conducting a careful examination of all statements and materials that pertain to this case," Strebkova told Znak.com.
In addition, Strebkova explained, most of those Surgut Jehovists present at the meeting received an order to undergo forensic medical expert analyses. In the near future, Strebkova clarified, experts are supposed to examine the people in order to find the injuries they received.
In conversation with Znak.com, the ombudsman declared that within the framework of her authority she controls the course of the preinvestigation examination that will soon be conducted.
"It is the S.K.R. that conducts the examination. The point is that besides the personnel of the Investigative Committee, representatives of other security agencies participated in the detention. And so far as I know, they also will be questioned," Strebkova reported.
We recall that on 15 February in Surgut, a special operation was conducted for the arrest of adherents of Jehovah's Witnesses in which, according to official reports, special troops of the Russian Guard for KhMAO [Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region] and personnel of the regional department of the F.S.B. for Tiumen oblast and of the Surgut Investigation Department of the S.K.R. as well as representatives of the Surgut police participated. As the result of the operation, three adherents are being held in custody. A criminal case on the basis of part 2 of article 282 of the Criminal Code of the RF ("Arranging the activity of an extremist organization and participation in it") was opened against them as well as another 19 persons.
Several days later, Russian Jehovists posted on their media sites reports about tortures and abuses to which they maintained their brethren had been subjected. The Jehovists also published materials of their attorneys in which they cited the names of investigators of the S.K.R. who possibly participated in the abuses against the people and also the names of the detained victims themselves.
Citing the lawyers and their brethren, the Jehovists reported that on 15 February, in the building of the Surgut department of the S.K.R., the detainees were stripped naked, beaten, doused with cold water, tortured with electric shock, and strangled with bags. The believers think that all of this was done with just one goal—to beat out "evidence necessary to the investigation" from those who had decided to exercise their right granted by the Russian constitution not to provide evidence against themselves and their associates.
In turn, the Investigation Department of the S.K.R. for KhMAO, which includes the Surgut investigation department of the S.K.R., called the Jehovists' statements about tortures "fabrications." However two days after the appearance of reports about tortures, the regional Investigation Department of the S.K.R. promised to conduct a preinvestigation examination and to question colleagues and subordinates who participated in interrogations of the detainees.
Yesterday, one of the detainees of 15 February of this year in Surgut, an adherent of the forbidden religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, Evgeny Kairiak, for the first time openly described the tortures and abuses to which he said he had been subjected in the building of the Surgut department of the S.K.R. A video recording, in which Kairiak describes in detail the acts committed with him, was published by Russian Jehovists in their account on the social network VKontakte and on the YouTube channel. "And they also put an electric shocker on my buttocks and began zapping me with electric shock and simultaneously suffocated me with a bag. All of this somehow alternated with posing questions."
"They wanted for me to say what they needed, apparently what they imagined for themselves. If my answers did not please them, then they repeated this. Or if something displeased them, then they pressed the bag and cut off the air and suffocated and you gasped for air and thought that you will die right away," Kairiak says in the video.
At the same time, yesterday a representative of the European organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, Yaroslav Sivulsky, in an interview with the British newspaper The Independent, reported the filing of a complaint against the actions of the Surgut siloviki [security personnel] with the presidential representative for human rights, Mikhail Fedotov, the ombudsman Tatiana Moskalkova, and the presidential administration.
In his turn, the famous Russian rights advocate Lev Ponomarev, last Thursday 21 February, declared that he is sending the complaints of the Surgut Jehovists personally to Alexander Bastrykin. Ponomarev compared the persecution in Yugra of members of the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses that is forbidden in Russia with the situation in which their fellow believers were in hitlerian Germany. History sources show that in the Third Reich the nazis persecuted the believers everywhere for their pacifism and for refusal to serve in the Vermacht army and to fight against the U.S.S.R. and its allies. The Jehovists have often been subjected to tortures and humiliations. Many of them were martyred in death camps or lost their health there.
It is also known that before the ban by the Russian Supreme Court on the activity of the Jehovah's Witnesses, this organization counted 175,000 believers in its ranks. (tr. by PDS, posted 26 February 2019)
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