Actions against Jehovah's Witnesses in Russian northwest


Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 1 August 2019


On 31 July 2019, the FSB department for the republic of Karelia conducted at least 15 searches in homes and workplaces of citizens whom they consider to be Jehovah's Witnesses in the cities of Petrozavodsk and Kondopoga. Men and women were arrested for interrogation, some for the whole night. Several persons have still not established communication; presumably they are in custody.


A criminal case has been opened on the basis that in 2017 the Russian Supreme Court banned the activity simultaneously of all organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. Law enforcement agencies interpret this decision as a total prohibition of worship of Jehovah ("Jehovah" is the name of God in the Bible).


In most cases, believers were caught by law enforcers in their home. Some of the group were seized in workplaces. The married couple Maksim and Maria Amosov was arrested on the street and the woman's coat was torn. A search in the apartment of Mikhail Gordeev, where he resides with his wife, minor daughters, and mother-in-law, was continued until evening. During the searches, telephones, tablets, computers, and the like were taken from citizens.


Judging by the questions of investigators, a criminal case was opened against 44-year-old Aleksei Smelov from Kondopoga and 42-year-old Maksim Amosov from Petrozavodsk. Both men have families for whom the unjust criminal prosecution is a difficult experience.


Exactly three years ago, on 28 July 2016, Karelian security services conducted an action of intimidation of believers, breaking into Jehovah's Witnesses' houses of worship with automatic weapons in Petrozavodsk and Kostomuksha. The believers were brutally pushed to the floor, kneed, and kicked.


Law enforcers incorrectly call the religious confession of citizens participation in the activity of an extremist organization. This problem has gained the attention of prominent public figures in Russia, the Council on Human Rights under the Russian president, the Russian president, and also international organizations: the Foreign Policy Service of the European Union, observers of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the office of the United Nations high commissioner for human rights. Jehovah's Witnesses do not have anything to do with extremism and insist on their complete innocence. The government of Russia has often declared that the decision of Russian courts on liquidation and ban of organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses "do not give an evaluation of the religious teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses and do not contain a restriction or prohibition on confessing said teaching individually." (tr. by PDS, posted 1 August 2019)

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