Authorities have easy way to punish elderly Jehovah's Witnesses


by Evgeny Safronov

Otkrytye Media, 31 July 2019


They were included in a list of extremists. The pensioners' bank cards are blocked and they are unable to receive transfers on them.


Six women from Vladivostok ranging in age from 61 to 84 years now will be able to receive their pensions only at a bank window with special permission and not at the time of request. The issue is that they were included in a list of terrorists and extremists. The list is composed and regularly updated by Rosinfmonitoring separate from a court. Those who wind up on this list have their bank accounts blocked.


As was explained for Otkrytye Media, the reason is that all these women (the publication has at its disposal their names, surnames, and ages) are members of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Vladivostok. In April 2019 they were charged with participating in an extremist organization and they gave a signed promise not to depart from their place of residence.


The case against them was opened on the basis of materials of the FSB in April 2018 because of continuation of the activity of the local congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. The Sova Center for News and Analysis wrote about the arrest of the believers in the Primorie.


The webpage of the case reported that in April 2019 an investigation was completed, and now the defendants are studying the materials of the investigation.


A court decision is not necessary for placement on the list of Rosfinmonitoring; all that is required is an order for considering a person to be a suspect or a decision by the prosecutor's office, Investigative Committee, or the MVD.


Those who are included in the list have all bank accounts blocked and a person cannot withdraw or transfer money, sell property, and conduct other banking operations. Pensioners who are included in the list must receive their pension at Sberbank, the OVD-info website reported. But before giving out money a bank employee must receive permission each time. It is not provided immediately but it may take several days.


According to federal law 115, a person who is included in the list may get at the bank only ten thousand rubles per month for himself and for each family member. For this it is necessary to prove that relatives do not have any other sources of income. If more money is needed, then it is necessary to make a request at a bank, which then turns to Rosfinmonitoring. Each financial transaction requires a number of documents from the accounting office of an employer, but no more than ten thousand rubles for a member of the family will be given.


In April 2017 the Russian Supreme Court ruled the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and 395 local congregations to be extremist organizations. An appeal of this decision was rejected. In August of the same year the Ministry of Justice included all these associations in the list of organizations forbidden in the country. The Russian Supreme Court granted the plaintiff's demand of the Ministry of Justice for liquidation of the organization on 20 April 2017.


In December 2018, in a session, the Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights complained to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the prosecution of the Witnesses was without basis, in the opinion of a number of rights advocates. At the time, the head of state responded with the comment specifically that Jehovah's Witnesses also are Christians and that he found it difficult to understand what they are being prosecuted for. (tr. by PDS, posted 9 August 2019)


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