Faith or extremism?
Following the recognition in April 2017 of the religious organization Jehovah's Witnesses as extremist, there is a wave of detentions of members of this organization in Russia. Human rights activists believe that the prosecution of members of this organization violates the human right to freedom of religion. And law enforcement officers execute the decision of the court, which means that according to the law, now extremists are punished.
On April 3, at the intersection of Pushkin and Karl-Marx streets, the leader of the Khabarovsk branch of the Libertarian Party of Russia (DM) held a single picket as part of an all-Russian action against the criminal prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses. Since April 20, 2017, the members of this organization have been recognized as extremists, and, in fact, put on a par with the militants of the “Islamic State” banned in Russia.
“Since then, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been systematically persecuted by the state: property is taken away from them, books, mass searches are conducted, criminal cases are brought against the witnesses themselves and tortured within the walls of the Investigative Committee. Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees every citizen freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but, as we see, this article is in no way respected by the authorities of the Russian Federation. The practice of persecution for the faith has returned to Russia, – the official group of the Khabarovsk branch of the decision maker reports.
Artyom Mozgovoy himself told reporters that he was not a supporter of Jehovah's Witnesses, but came out on a picket solely against persecution in Russia for religion.
Later, on April 7, a criminal case was opened in Birobidzhan under the article “Financing Extremist Activities,” the SOVA Information and Analytical Center reported, referring to the FSB office in the Jewish Autonomous Region. The names of the suspects are not reported, but it is known that this is the “Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.”
According to the investigators, from April 2017 to May 2018, suspects collected money from other members of the organization and used it to support the activities of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and its subordinate religious organization Jehovah's Witnesses in Birobidzhan.
In total, according to the organization’s data, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, members of the organization across the country were persecuted. Since April 2017, 79 people have been or have been in the SIZO, and 269 people have been searched. So, in Khabarovsk three people were in prison, and one is still imprisoned. Prior to April’s detention in Birobidzhan, one follower of Jehovah’s Witnesses visited the prison. Another believer was kept in prison in Blagoveshchensk. In Vladivostok, one follower of the organization is in custody, and another has already left the prison. In Spassk-Dalny, four were imprisoned.
Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, at a meeting of the Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights at the end of 2018:
“About the Jehovah's Witnesses.” Perhaps we can, and even should at some point, be much more liberal towards members of various religious sects, but we should not forget that our society is not composed solely of religious sects. 90 percent of the citizens of the Russian Federation or so consider themselves Orthodox Christians. We have three more practically traditional our religions, which the state provides assistance. We should treat representatives of all religions in the same way – this is true, but still, it is also necessary to take into account the country and the society in which we live. True, this does not mean at all that we should enroll representatives of religious communities in some destructive ones, not even in terrorist organizations. Of course, this is complete nonsense, you need to carefully deal with it.
* Jehovah's Witnesses organization banned in Russia