Four residents of Dagestan accused of organizing activities of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization recognized as extremist and banned on the territory of the Russian Federation have been in jail for almost two months. They will remain in custody at least until September 27 – such a decision was made by the Sovetsky District Court of Makhachkala. They deny their participation in the activities of the extremist organization and insist that the "evidence" was planted during their detention.
On the first of June, searches were immediately conducted in four Dagestan cities – Makhachkala, Kaspiysk, Kizlyar and Derbent. In the evening, four Dagestanis were detained – Arsen Abdullaev, Maria Karpova, Anton Dergalev and Marat Abdulgalimov. They are all accused of organizing the activities of the extremist organization Jehovah's Witnesses.
“Six in the morning, we were sleeping, there was a knock on the door,” recalls Suat Abdullayeva, a resident of Kaspiysk, the wife of the arrested Arsen Abdullayev, in a conversation with MBH Media. – Jumped in, thought maybe beggars. Then they lay down again. Pause and knock again. We began to ask who was there. The peephole on the door was closed on the other side, said it was the neighbors. We began to ask what happened, then the man at the door began to say that our car was in the way. Arsen explains to him that he parked correctly and could not stop anyone. At that moment, we already realized that something was not happening.
The guests pounded too intrusively and frightened Suat and her husband very much. The spouses began to call friends, but they were out of reach – later they find out that at the same time searches were taking place with them. As a result, the "neighbors" nevertheless said that they were actually from the police, and then Arsen Abdullaev immediately opened them.
– At 6.20 they burst into us. Arsen raised his hands up, indicating that he was unarmed. There were a lot of people. There are only five or six masked people. They ran in screaming. They threw Arsen face to the floor, hands behind his back. I haven’t seen all this. I only heard screams because I and my son were immediately taken to another room, ”Suat recalls.
The search of the Abdullaev’s apartment ended at 10.30. All this time, Suat's parents stood in the stairwell, whom her son managed to call. As a result of operational measures, two issues of The Watchtower magazine for 2010 were discovered in the apartment (some publications in it were recognized as extremist). Suat is absolutely sure that they were thrown during the search.
“We had nothing forbidden at home,” the woman says. – Between the hall and the small entrance hall in our apartment there is a large entrance hall, and in it there is a wardrobe with three sliding doors. Middle is always open. Anything is very easy to put in there, ”she says.
Suat later read the search protocol and checked to see if the found issues of the magazine contained texts recognized as extremist in Russia. The woman could not find them in the list of banned.
On the same day, Suat found out about the arrest of their friends – Maria Karpova, Anton Dergalev and Marat Abdulgalimov.
“The FSB Directorate for Dagestan in the framework of a criminal case under Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“Organization of the activities of an extremist organization”), the functioning of 15 cells of the banned extremist organization Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Republic of Dagestan was stopped, the FSB press service said a few days later.
According to investigators, all the detainees "were trained in foreign centers and recruited new members from among the natives of Dagestan."
Everyone is charged under 282.2. article of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Organization of the activities of an extremist organization”. If the guilt of the defendants is proved, they may face six to ten years in prison.
Neither Suat Abdullaeva herself nor her lawyer can find out any details about the case brought against her husband.
“When the lawyer tried to conduct a dialogue with the investigation, there were some excuses:“ This is the secret of the investigation ”,“ Closed information ”,“ We cannot disclose yet, ”she says.
“Persecution intensifies from year to year”
“What is being done against Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia today, in my opinion, has a very precise definition of genocide,” says lawyer Viktor Zhenkov. Many times he spoke out in defense of the Russian “Jehovah’s”. According to Zhenkov, the state seeks to exterminate a certain segment of the population in Russia on religious grounds.
– The following facts testify to this. Firstly, this large-scale campaign is carried out simultaneously in all regions of Russia, which does not indicate random actions by local authorities, but the implementation of specific directives from the center. Secondly, the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses is given the appearance of legality. In 2009, the state first announced some publications of Jehovah's Witnesses as extremist materials because they spoke of the truth of their religion. The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation did not want to stop this vicious practice, therefore, further informational materials were recognized by the courts as extremist almost solely on the grounds that they were published by Jehovah's Witnesses. It got to the point that in 2017, contrary to the direct prohibition of the law, the Bible was recognized as extremist under the name “Holy Scripture – Translation of a New World”. Thirdly, persecution intensifies from year to year. Since 2010, dozens of criminal cases have been initiated against peaceful believers, and over the past two years, the number of Jehovah’s witnesses persecuted for their faith has reached hundreds, the lawyer quotes.
Dagestan became the 39th region, where criminal cases were instituted against Jehovah's Witnesses. As of May 24, 2019, 43 women and 157 men across Russia have already been prosecuted.
In March 2017, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation recognized Jehovah's Witnesses as an extremist organization. In Russia at that time there were about 400 communities in different regions. According to the data for 2018, in our country, the organization had 175 thousand followers. They were in Dagestan, but it became practically impossible to judge the number of Dagestan believers after the organization was outlawed. General meetings ceased, believers ceased to advertise their religious affiliation, fearing persecution and persecution.
– Our constitution is good. And our authorities, publicly, continue to declare that Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia have the right to practice their religion. But these are just words. But in fact, peaceful believers are subjected to mass searches, thrown into pretrial detention facilities, regardless of gender and age. Some are held in custody for a year or more. Others, such as in Surgut, are tortured and threatened with rape. Having selected their liturgical buildings from believers, the authorities apparently hoped that believers would forget about their right enshrined in Art. 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation: to have their own beliefs and share them with others. But Jehovah's Witnesses did not abandon their religion, so now they are accused of singing songs and peacefully reading the Bible together in their apartments. It is in this that the authorities see the continued activities of the liquidated organization as Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code, says Viktor Zhenkov.
According to the lawyer, Jehovah's Witnesses won all the courts where they were accused of inciting hatred or enmity – from 2010 to 2017, the courts passed several acquittals, dozens of criminal cases were dropped for lack of evidence. But the detained Dagestanis are accused of another part of article 282, and here the statistics are much more bleak.
– Based on the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of April 20, 2017, three convictions under Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code. One defendant was sentenced to six years in prison, two were fined heavily … I am sure that there are many judges in Russia who, despite pressure from above, are ready to make sentences based on the law. I would like to wish courage to these judges. However, while we are observing a different trend, the lawyer states.
"MBH.MEDIA", July 31, 2019