COURT RULES COUPLE HAS RIGHT TO PROFESS FAITH OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND RETURNS CASE TO PROSECUTOR BECAUSE OF UNSUBSTANTIATED CHARGES
Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 1 October 2019
On 25 September 2019, the Sverdlovsk district court of Kostroma returned a criminal case against a married couple, Valeria and Sergei Raiman, to the Kostroma prosecutor's office. At the same time, the court emphasized that in the case of the spouses "there exists the legal right to profess the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, which [i.e. the religion—tr.] has not been prohibited."
Valeria and Sergei Raiman are accused of continuing the activity of the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, which [i.e., the organization—tr.] has been prohibited by a decision of the Supreme Court. However, on 25 September, the Kostroma court pointed out the "vague" wording of the indictment. Neither in the materials of the criminal case, nor in the register of legal entities, nor in any other documents is there a confirmation that the young couple were founders or members of the local religious organization in Kostroma.
The indictment, without substantiation, indicates that the Raiman couple conducted meetings of the religious organization, but at the same time it does not cite a single name of participants in such meetings, to which the believers' defense attorneys called attention. It also is not indicated in the indictment what were the consequences of the Raiman couple's actions and the means of committing a "crime."
The court did not find in the documents of the investigation evidence of the intent to commit a crime. At the same time, the court cited the order of the plenum of the Russian Supreme Court of 28 June 2011, "On legal practice in cases of crimes of an extremist nature," which clearly states: "The crime identified by article 282 of the Criminal Code of the RF, is committed only by means of direct intent and with the goal of inciting hatred or strife and also of degrading the dignity of a person or group of persons on the basis of sex, race, nationality, language, descent, attitude toward religion, or affiliation with some social group."
The court indicated that "in this case there exists a legal right to profess the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, which was not prohibited by the decision of the Russian Supreme Court of 20 April 2017." "And also that the Russian Supreme Court, in its decisions, has often indicated that profession of the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses on the territory of the RF has not been forbidden by law and they are not denied the possibility of independently conducting religious rituals," the court's order states; it has not yet taken legal effect.
Despite such a position, the court left Valeria and Sergei Raiman under restriction of a signed pledge not to depart from their place of residence. The couple is still facing up to ten years in prison.
The nightmare began for the young family early in the morning of 25 July 2018, when during a series of searches in Kostroma, armed special forces, using crowbars, broke down the door of their apartment. After a search, the couple was arrested. Valeria was detained for two days and for another 179 days she was under a prohibition of specific actions. Sergei spent 59 days in custody, some of this time in a narrow isolation cell, and then 30 days under house arrest and another 90 days under a prohibition of specific actions. In all of this time, it was impossible for the couple to conduct a fully normal form of life, including communication with one another.
The religion of the Jehovah's Witnesses really has not been banned in Russia. (tr. by PDS, posted 1 October 2019)
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