Polish Jehovah's Witness leaves prison after nearly one year


Idel.Realiia, 4 September 2019


Before this, no fewer than six appeals by the defendant and his attorneys for "changing the measure of restriction" were denied.


A district court of Kirov released from custody a Polish citizen and follower of the religious movement of Jehovah's Witnesses, Andrzej Oniszczuk. The decision of the appellate court, reversing the order of a district court, was completely unexpected by all participants in the proceedings.


The Polish citizen spent 330 days in a SIZO of Kirov on a charge of participation in and financing of an extremist community. According to the account of the investigation, Andrzej Oniszczuk conducted "illegal religious meetings," during which Witnesses of Kirov studied the Bible, prayed, preached, and sang biblical hymns. During his incarceration, Oniszczuk was held in an isolation cell of the Kirov SIZO and he was not permitted meetings with his wife. In addition to him, subjects of the criminal case regarding extremism are Kirov residents Andrei and Evgeny Suvorkov, Maksim Khalturin, and Vladimir Korobeinikov. Now Andrzej Oniszczuk and Andrei Suvorkov are under a signed promise not to depart their place of residence, and Evgeny Suvorkov, Maksim Khalturin, and Vladimir Korobeinikov are under house arrest. If their guilt were to be proven, the Witnesses face a fine, forced labor, or incarceration for a term of up to eight years.


In addition, in Kirov a criminal case has been opened for a pensioner, Anatoly Tokarev. He is charged with "singing biblical songs in his apartment." By a decision of a court of the October district, Anatoly Tokarev's house and lot have been impounded and he himself has signed a "commitment to appear" with the investigator.


On 20 April 2018, the Russian Supreme Court ruled the religious organization "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" and all of its 395 regional divisions on Russian territory to be extremist and banned their activity. On 17 July 2017 an appellate instance of the Russian Supreme Court rejected an appeal of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and the decision took legal effect.


According to information of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, criminal cases on a charge of religious extremism have been opened against 205 Russian Witnesses, 35 of them are in places of incarceration, 26 are under house arrest, and 69 are under a signed promise not to depart from places of residence.


Idel.Realii has described the stories of adherents of the teaching who were forced to leave Russia.


In the European court in Strasbourg, 395 Russian congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses have appealed against religious persecution and illegal judicial decisions in the Russian Federation, which contradict the international Convention on Human Rights. If this appeal were to be satisfied the Russian government would have to pay the largest compensation in history, six billion rubles. (tr. by PDS, posted 5 September 2019)

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