Jehovah's Witnesses survey recent weeks of intensified repression


Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 19 July 2019


According to information as of 17 July 2019, the total number of searches in homes of Jehovah's Witnesses comes to 512. All searches were the direct result of the liquidation and prohibition of 396 registered religious organizations, issued by the Russian Supreme Court in 2017. A search profoundly traumatizes a person who is guilty of nothing and casts a shadow on his reputation.


In two years, criminal cases against Jehovah's Witnesses have been opened in 43 regions of Russia. At least 225 persons have the status of suspects, defendants, or convicts.


After the widespread resonance that was evoked in February 2019 by the harsh sentence of Dennis Christensen, the Russian law enforcement system substantially increased pressure on believers. Whereas on 15 March 2019 the total number of searches in apartments of believers was 269, by 17 July 2019 it had become 243 more and totaled 512. At least 117 believers were placed in cells or a SIZO, and although for the majority of them the measure for restriction was mitigated, 37 persons, including 6 women, are behind bars and another 25 persons are under house arrest.


The Jehovah's Witnesses consider that the judicial decisions against them are not based on law. (tr. by PDS, posted 19 July 2019)




Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 19 July 2019


During a special operation, secret police in Nizhny Novgorod oblast arrested at least 13 believers. One of them, 48-year-old Aleksei Oreshkov, is still in a temporary holding cell. Another one is held under house arrest. The fate of the others is being determined.


Widespread searches and arrests were conducted on 16 and 17 July 2019 in Nizhny Novgorod and the cities of Pavlovo and Bor of Nizhny Novgorod oblast. Secret police invaded the homes of believers and seized computer equipment and hard drives. In several cases the troops of secret police forced residents of the homes face-down on the floor, saying "We know all about you."


Peaceful meetings of believers who adhere to the religious teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses are incorrectly interpreted by special forces throughout Russia as a continuation of the activity of forbidden religious organizations. This is happening despite the clearly stated position of authorities regarding the fact that the decision of the Russian Supreme Court for the ban of the Russian organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses "does not contain a restriction or a ban on the profession of the aforementioned teaching individually." (tr. by PDS, posted 19 July 2019)



Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 19 July 2019


On 17 and 18 July 2019, in Kirov, searches were conducted in the homes of 48-year-old Anton Vasiukov, 62-year-old Aleksei Okatiev, and 63-year-old Yury Gerasikov. The actions were conducted within the context of a criminal case against Anatoly Tokarev. In all, in the city three identical cases with respect to 11 Jehovah's Witnesses are being investigated. Polish citizen Andzhei Onishchuk has already been held in a SIZO for 280 days.


Accusations of organizing the activity of an extremist association in Kirov have been brought against six men, and another five remain in the status of suspects. Many believers have been summoned to interrogations. A police officer, Maslov, from the Center for Combating Extremism, often goes to believer's homes and loudly knocks at the door for a long time, causing consternation in the neighbors. At least once, after such a visit by Maslov, believers discovered that the police officer for some unknown reason deactivated the electricity meter. (tr. by PDS, posted 19 July 2019)



Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 19 July 2019


It has been learned that early in the morning of 26 June 2019, in Budennovsk of Stavropol territory nearly simultaneous searches were conduct in six homes of believers. The actions of law enforcement were connected with a series of arrests in an area near Neftekumsk where three persons have been in a SIZO for more than seven months now.


The searches in the homes of residents of Budennovsk began around six o'clock in the morning.  In one case, an absent resident was forced by deception to return home, where FSB agents had already inspected the premises. One woman was searched in the presence of her four-year-old son and adult daughter. At the home of a 52-year-old believer, besides the house the out-buildings, a garage, and auto were searched. Agents also invaded the home of a 66-year-old widow and 59-year-old disabled man.


Law enforcement personnel inquired about the religious views of citizens and also asked them to identify by photographs residents of Neftekumsk whose "guilt" consisted in their "not renouncing their religious views after the Russian Supreme Court decided to ban the activity . . . of the [Jehovah's Witnesses] religious organization."


It is noteworthy that, besides the investigator, Yu. Koropov and Major Klopotovaia from the Budennovsk OVD, and also their colleagues V. Kapitsa, R. Safonov, and A. Prokhorov, agents of the FSB from Stavropol and St. Petersburg also participated in the searches. (tr. by PDS, posted 19 July 2019)




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