In Saratov, six Jehovah's Witnesses were sentenced to imprisonment of two to three and a half years for the creation of an extremist organization (banned in the Russian Federation. – Ed.) The criminal case was investigated by the regional department of the FSB. Lawyers say that the blame for the Saratovites was reading the Bible, prayers and performing spiritual songs. Investigators regarded these activities as a continuation of the activities of a legal entity – the LRO (local religious organization) Jehovah's Witnesses. The Saratov branch was banned along with the other four hundred regional branches by a decision of the Supreme Court in 2017.
After the verdict in Saratov, the US State Department called on Russia to respect the rights of citizens to freedom of religion. Morgan Ortagus, the head of the press service of the department, explained on Twitter that believers were punished for peaceful religious activity. Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told Russian reporters that he did not have information about the lawsuit.
“A command was given at the highest level: there should be cases of extremism.
And where to get so many extremists in the province, especially after decriminalizing reposts? In this regard, Jehovah's Witnesses are a gold mine.
Develop them as much as you like, develop budgets, get stars and bonuses for shoulder straps, ”said lawyer Arthur Leontyev, who participated in the Saratov trial.
certificate of "new"
The religious organization “Jehovah's Witnesses Management Center in Russia” was recognized as extremist and banned in the Russian Federation in April 2017 by a decision of the Supreme Court. The lawsuit for liquidation was filed by the Ministry of Justice of Russia. The department substantiated its statement by saying that “the activities of the organization and its structure as of the day the administrative claim is filed by 395 local religious organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses are carried out with violations of the statutory goals and objectives.” In addition, according to the Justice Ministry, Jehovah's Witnesses violated the law on countering extremism: in particular, many campaign materials were previously recognized as extremist in lower courts. Such materials include magazines published and distributed by the organization, online resources and online libraries.
The judge of the Supreme Court considered the plaintiff’s convincing arguments that the prosecutor’s office regularly seized religious literature from Jehovah’s Witnesses and recognized it as extremist, and immediately liquidated the organization together with all local branches, believing that “such an exceptional measure would not be constitute arbitrary interference and an unacceptable restriction on the right of citizens to association, to freedom of religion. ” All objections and counterclaims of Jehovah's Witnesses were dismissed by the court.
“In the pre-trial detention center they are considered political”
The Gridasov family lives in a panel nine-story building on the outskirts of the city. The search in the small "kopeck piece" lasted 12 hours.
“I thought: if only the flowers were not touched, how much then to clean! – Elvira Gridasova looks back at a wedding gift – Campanul with thick green leaves and white petals. – In the kitchen I have cereals in jars. The girl with the camera that was shooting us demanded: spill it out! I say: then what will I, like Cinderella, be sorting through the grain? Give me at least a newspaper to put it under. ”
Elvira and Roman Gridasovs. Photo: Timur Aralbaev / Free News
The arrival of the security forces was not a complete surprise. “After what happened to Christensen (Jehovah's Witness from Orel, Denis Christensen, was convicted under extremist sentence to six years in prison in February. – ON.), we understood that they would not stop, ”the woman calmly explains.
The Gridasovs were knocked on Russia Day, June 12 last year at 6.00 in the morning. Elvira thought it was Baba Masha from the apartment next door. “The knock became stronger. I realized that this is not a neighbor, and ran to open. She knew: Roma would be taken away anyway, but I would have to put up a new door. ”
“Put the forbidden!” Demanded the operatives. “But we had nothing. In the past, we were given lists so that we knew which publications could no longer be used because they were recognized as extremist. Since 2015, literature has ceased to be imported into Russia, and the problem has generally disappeared. ”
The spouses took their phones. Elvira was not allowed to answer the calls of her eldest daughter and call her boss to take leave of work.
In the evening, the spouses were taken to the regional office of the FSB. “Roma was taken to one room, me to another. I answered all the questions that I am using the 51st article of the Constitution. The investigator showed a little discontent. A friend sitting in the hallway heard him indignant: Jehovah's witnesses are so stubborn, it is impossible to come to an agreement with them! At the end of the conversation, the investigator gave me a piece of paper: “Sign!” “Can I not sign it?” I asked, and he ordered me to go. ”
Elvira Gridasova. Photo: Timur Aralbaev / Free News
Around eight in the evening, Elvira stood on Dzerzhinsky Street in the very center of Saratov – without her husband, money, and a telephone.
Roman spent two days in a temporary detention center, then went on bail. “The first week, Roma could not be at home – the surveillance seemed to be. I returned from work, and we immediately went for a walk. The street was no easier. It seemed that we were constantly meeting the same people or machines.
I said: you have to fight this feeling, otherwise you can go crazy. But she calmed down only when she did a spring cleaning and checked every item. ”
I ask how Elvira managed to maintain her composure? “I have had stressful situations before,” she dismisses. – In the 1990s, I lived in a district center and raised two daughters alone. I just didn’t work as a seamstress or a baker. ” The woman says that at the time, co-religionists (she began to study the Bible in 1993) did much so that her girls did not need anything.
They met Roman in 2009 in adulthood. “He is a former athlete. Large figure, nose broken. But first of all, I noticed what a good look he had. Roma has tenderness inside. He likes to joke, without sarcasm. Says what he thinks. He talks in the evenings. With my first husband, this was not enough for me. Few men like to talk. ”
Elvira leafs through a family album: a wedding, a trip to a spring in the winter forest, a bike ride. “When they got married, he immediately said: you no longer have to solve problems, support your family.” Roman worked as a finisher and a carpenter, made repairs at home, helped with cleaning. “In the morning, he always took out the trash. The floors were washed together. After the sentence, I could not do anything. "
Elvira and Roman Gridasovs. Photo: Timur Aralbaev / Free News
The investigation and trial lasted more than a year. The Leninsky District Court sentenced Gridasov to two years in prison. Now he is in jail. Twice a week, Elvira takes food there. You need to register for the gear in two days. The electronic queue does not exist. Relatives of the prisoners themselves keep a paper list. True, there is an enterprising grandmother who will bring your name there for 100 rubles.
On the day of the transfer, you must arrive in the early morning, submit an application in the window. Special forms are sold in a nearby shop. Other goods needed for relatives of those arrested are presented there – transparent buckets and bags into which products from factory packaging are transferred. Open tin cans, cut food in the reception room in front of employees. “A wide iron window sill has been made for this. The atmosphere there is nervous. Through the glass, it is hard to hear what they say from the window. Behind is the hive. Everyone swears. ”
Elvira is now considering how to give her husband a synodal translation of the Bible. Books are not always received through the window, fearing that a secret message is hidden in the text. Near the pre-trial detention center there is a bookstore cooperating with the prison library. “We need to place an order in the store, take the paper to the librarian. The money will be written off from Roma’s account, the selected book will go to the library, and from there to the camera. ”
There are six people in Gridasov’s cell. Thanks to this, it is warm in a small room. Half of the sitters smoke. There is a refrigerator. The TV is constantly working. There is only cold water in the tap. A shower is expected once a week.
“Why did you take exactly Roman? – asks Elvira. “Anyone could be in his place.” Maybe they thought that no one would intercede for a simple finisher. In jail our guys are considered political.
Understand that they sit behind beliefs. There, a person is assessed more objectively, according to real actions, and many people relate to Jehovah's Witnesses on the basis of the stereotype – a sect, bad people.
Elvira Gridasova. Photo: Timur Aralbaev / Free News
“We love life”
The Herman family home is easily recognizable by its bright yellow fence. Beam barks at the gate. Gennady German once picked him up on the street. Down the slope terraces down the garden. Hens cluck behind the yellowing berry.
“This Gena built everything. And he did it for me, – the mistress of the house, Nadezhda, smiles. – We really love a healthy diet, a healthy lifestyle and life itself. True, it’s hard for me to love her. ”
Hope met Jehovah's Witnesses in 1992 in Khabarovsk. “I got the impression that these are honest, decent men in beautiful suits. This was important to me, because by profession I am a male tailor. Cut even Bari Alibasovu.
Gennady then served in the army. Officers looked after Nadezhda, but she chose the ensign. "I felt: he will make sure that I am happy." She herself made an offer to the chosen one and gave two days for thought.
Nadezhda German. Photo: Matvey Flyazhnikov / specially for Novaya
Three years later, the couple with their young son moved to a remote village in the Saratov region to look after the ill mother of Nadezhda. “We left everything in Khabarovsk. It was very difficult for her husband – to sit under a cow from a comfortable apartment. But he sat down. "
When mom was gone, the family moved to Saratov. “We bought a garden plot with a garage – now it’s the kitchen. The house was built from garbage. Friends helped drag window frames from the landfill. The sisters took loans, made out land, gas. This year, Gena and I were going to repair the veranda. Did not have time".
The German family, as well as the Gridasovs, came on June 12. Gennady was 50 years old that day. “In the mornings, I run, pray, read the Bible. At 5.55 I did not sleep. Masked men knocked on both doors, from the street and from the yard. They treated us like enemies. I am to them – as guests. She said: let’s go without fanaticism, I won’t lie on the floor, it’s cold. Sit in chairs, calm down, do you have any documents? Then Sergey Sergeyevich, an investigator, an interesting person, came in, in other circumstances, we could talk for a long time.
Milo tried to recruit me. I replied that the traitors end badly, for example, Judas Iscariot. "
After interrogation at the FSB, Gennady was taken to the detention center for two days. Hope returned home. “All cards were blocked. Cash – we had deferred 40 thousand for vacation – was seized. On the table was 50 rubles – all that was left. ” Fortunately, the owners of the construction base, where German worked as a seller, agreed to give his wife his salary.
Judicial review of the case began this summer. “Leninsky district court works in the building of the former kindergarten. The toilet is shared between men and women, two cabins. It was there that we met with the prosecutor. Forty people came to every meeting. The hall is crowded. The judge took a break of no more than 15 minutes. During this time, you need to have time to have a bite, to get water. It was not even possible to run to the store. ”
Herman's apartment. Photo: Matvey Flyazhnikov / specially for Novaya
A week before the sentence, the lawyer advised to pack a backpack. “My husband and I spent the whole day doing this. We tried to make it fun. They put a towel, a toothbrush, a leotard, thermal underwear, a glass, an electric kettle, a tea bag. There are 20 items in the list. ”
Gennady German was taken into custody in the courtroom. He must spend two years in a penal colony.
“When I came home alone after the sentence, I saw stocks in the kitchen – two bags of fresh potatoes. Beef heart cooked with spices and laid on my favorite plate. My husband prepared it for me in the morning, before the trial, while I was at work. ”
“Well, Zhen, this has already happened to you”
October 8 at the Felix and Eugenia Makhammadievyh – the eighth wedding anniversary. “Most often we spent this day together. Last year, Felix was in jail under arrest. But there he managed to give me a present. ” Eugene takes out a small necklace of blue and black plastic beads on a thread from a loose wool sock from a drawer. “This is the most expensive present for me. I put it on dates with my husband. "
Photo: Matvey Flyazhnikov / specially for Novaya
Eugene and Felix met in the company of friends who decided to learn sign language. She is a design artist by profession. He has an incomplete legal education. “All his relatives used to serve in law enforcement. At the institute, he understood: this is not his. ”
“Since the wedding, we have always been together,” recalls Zhenya.
The young couple was detained on the same day as other Saratov fellow believers, at about ten in the morning in the parking lot near the shopping center. “We went shopping. Suddenly a van pulled up. People with arms twisted our arms, threw us at the car, and expressed obscene language. They did not introduce themselves, the car was without identification marks. I have never been treated like this. My father is a military man; I grew up in a completely different environment.
When we were brought to the FSB building, I realized what was happening. She told herself: well, that’s it, Zhen, this has already happened to you. No more startle from the steps in the entrance, they have already come to us. ”
Felix ended up in a temporary detention center, then in a pre-trial detention center. “I did not know what it was and where it was. How to find out if a person is alive, are they torturing him? ”
Evgenia Makhammadieva. Photo: Matvey Flyazhnikov / specially for Novaya
For six months, the arrested were not given dates. Then the spouses were allowed to see each other twice a month. “First you need to get permission from the investigator. It really is three days. If for some reason you miss a deadline, the date “burns out”, they won’t give another one in return. It is necessary to arrive in a pre-trial detention center by six in the morning, to take a turn. At 8.00 a window opens where documents are submitted. If they have the slightest typo, you will be wrapped. In addition, it is forbidden that the persons involved in one case be on a date together. Therefore, the wives of the other guys tried to choose different times.
A few more hours you need to wait when let go inside. We usually walk with my mother-in-law. She is an elderly person, disabled. She doesn’t sleep at night before the date; her blood pressure rises. Launch of six people. Sometimes less if not all telephone booths work. In the booth there is one chair screwed to the floor. Due to a sore leg, the mother-in-law can hardly get on it. Hold the handset carefully. The devices are old, if you move a little, the wire leaves. You can talk for an hour and a half. ”
Makhammadiev suffers from an incurable disease – celiac disease (gluten intolerance). “To receive the medicine, Felix must write a statement to the isolation ward doctor. In Saratov, even gastroenterologists in prestigious clinics know little about this diagnosis, not to mention the prison doctor. After approval of the application, I have to buy drugs. Take the SIZO to the doctor together with the sales receipt, pharmacy certificate and other pieces of paper. It takes once a week for an hour. They won’t give the medicine to Felix’s hands. The doctor himself must give one tablet. It happens that medicines are lost. Drugs in the form of a suspension or powder in a pre-trial detention center are not taken at all. ”
With celiac disease, a strict diet is laid. But vitamins and diet foods in the isolation ward are prohibited. “I don’t know what law it is written in. They just tell me: we don’t accept, it’s not appropriate.
The hardest was in the days of the court hearings. The accused are taken away from the detention center early in the morning. They return to the camera at about ten in the evening. You cannot take your products with you. From dry rations, which is issued in such cases, Felix can only tea.
“Lawyers warned that the courts were rewriting the passport data of visitors. I thought: do I need to call someone? After the first court session, when I went out into the lobby, I was amazed how many people came to share the trouble with us, ”recalls Zhenya.
Eugene and Felix Makhammadieva. Photo: Matvey Flyazhnikov / specially for Novaya
Relatives of the accused suggested what the outcome of the case would be, because "in other regions there were no acquittals according to Jehovah's witnesses." The prosecutor’s office asked for six to seven years in prison.
“The debate and the last word lasted until late at night. I was sure that the judge would need time to think. I did not expect the verdict to be announced the next day. Was the decision written in advance? – doubts Zhenya. – The judge read for a very long time. I was tired of standing, I understood little from the tongue twister. And then I saw through the window how funnels were approaching. ”
Родственники и соверующие два часа ждали на улице, когда осужденных поведут из здания суда в машины. «Нам велели выйти из двора за забор. Поставили автозаки так, чтобы загородить обзор, и включили двигатели, чтобы ребята не могли нас услышать. Осталась узенькая щелочка, через которую было видно, кого выводят из суда. Мы хлопали каждому и кричали, что любим».
Феликс Махаммадиев приговорен к трем годам лишения свободы.
Женя вытирает глаза. Несколько минут разглядывает падающие листья за окном. «Мне не свойственно быть такой сильной, как сейчас требуется. Но раз мы пережили этот год, значит, и дальше сможем».
"НОВАЯ ГАЗЕТА", 16 октября 2019 г.