Officials deny Jehovah's Witnesses were tortured


Credo.Press, 8 April 2019


The Investigative Committee of Russia (SKR) for Khanty-Mansi autonomous district (KhMAO) refused on 5 April to open a criminal case after reports by local Jehovah's Witnesses about tortures by security personnel, MBKh Media reports, referring to an attorney for the suspects, Egiazar Chernikov.


"They refused to open a case regarding tortures. Ermolaev, who is the director of the investigation department of the SKR in Surgut and who directly developed and directed these 'operations,' gave his approval for everything," he said. "At the same time, today he told news media that this is all a lie and there were no tortures," the attorney said in indignation.


"Why did they take into account the testimony of officials but the testimony of dozens of eyewitnesses, who heard screams, was not given any attention? Such an approach is just not equal and it is impossible to take such an investigation seriously; it was not objective," Chernikov declared.


"The investigation was prejudiced from the start. It was not conducted objectively. The mandatory rules prescribed in the law for certain actions were not followed. Obviously there was such an approach. The investigation should have been conducted in an appropriate manner, but nothing was done," the attorney emphasized.


He added that he requested twice to get acquainted with materials of the investigation, but he was illegally rejected. Chernikov said that the attorneys will appeal the results of this investigation.


In mid-February, widespread searches were conducted in homes of Jehovah's Witnesses in the district. Seven of the 15 Jehovah's Witnesses who were arrested in Surgut and other residential areas of KhMAO complained about tortures during interrogation in the department of the SKR.


They described how security personnel bound them with scotch tape, stripped them naked, smothered them until they lost consciousness, doused them with water, and zapped them with an electric shocker over the course of several hours. During the tortures they were compelled to say where their meetings were held and who attended them and to give the names of elders and the passcodes of their telephones. The investigative committee for the district opened an investigation.


In 2017, the Russian Supreme Court ruled the religious organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses to be extremist and banned their activity in Russia. (tr. by PDS, posted 8 April 2019)

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