At the end of July 2019, employees of the colony where Dennis Christensen was serving his sentence planted a knife at his cell - and, armed with a video camera, they immediately “found” it there. This incident was used to pressure the believer. Supporting him shortly thereafter was the visit of Andrey Babushkin from the presidential Human Rights Council. Human rights activists were interested in the conditions of his detention and respect for human rights.
Trial on Merits of Religion of Two Kemerovo Region Citizens Begins. Hearings Scheduled for August-September
In the town of Beryozovsky (Kemerovo region), hearings began on the criminal case over the merits of the religion of Sergey Britvin and Vadim Levchuk. Both of them have been in jail for more than a year. The next meetings are scheduled for August 20 and 21, September 3, 4, 17 and 18, 2019. Read the hearing details in the process chronicle (in Russian).
On August 14, 2019, Smolensk resident Ruslan Korolev was released from the pre-trial detention center, where he had spent a little less than four months. Now the believer will be under house arrest, but three more men and two women are still being held there.
On August 9, 2019, Karpinsk City Prosecutor Andrei Arzhakhovsky approved the final document in which investigators summarized the charges against Aleksandr Prianikov, Darya and Venera Dulova, suspected of practicing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. The case now goes to court: see details of the hearings in the process chronicle (in Russian).
“We must get to the bottom of the truth.” In Surgut, the Head of the Human Rights Council Interviewed Witnesses Who Were Tortured
On August 14, 2019, Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (HRC), met with local Jehovah's Witnesses in Surgut (Yugra) who officially announced the torture inflicted on them by law enforcement officers. The meeting was also attended by the head of the Investigative Committee in Yugra, the first deputy prosecutor of Yugra, the deputy chief of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Yugra, the deputy governor of Yugra and the mayor of the city of Surgut. On the part of the Witnesses, 28 people were present — victims, as well as members of their families who helped them cope with the psychological consequences of the experience. After the meeting, Mikhail Fedotov said: "My conclusion: We must get to the bottom of the truth. The President is very negative about the facts of torture. We remember his words that this is an absolutely unacceptable practice."
On August 15, 2019, in the Zheleznodorozhny District Court of Khabarovsk, the criminal investigation against local resident Valery Moskalenko, 52, was completed. He faces up to six years in prison because in the spring of 2018 in a hotel conference room he allegedly talked with friends about faith in Jehovah God. The case is being heard by Judge Ivan Belykh. Debate will begin August 28. The prosecution will announce the sentence they are requesting be imposed on the believer.
In July 2019, in the Nizhny Novgorod Region, the court sent Aleksandr Vavilov,51, and Aleksey Oreshkov, 48, to the pre-trial detention center. Both are accused by investigating officers of engaging in extremist activities as presently defined by courts interpreting the peaceful religious beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Elderly Krasnoyarsk Woman Subjected to Armed Raid by Security Forces Citing Religion of Her Grandson
On August 2, 2019, in the village of Nikolaevka (Krasnoyarsk Territory), security forces in masks and bulletproof vests broke into the house of 77-year-old Lyubov Mirenyuk, alone at home, and demanded she hand over all available electronic devices. The sole reason given is the religious views of her grandson, while she herself does not share them.
A wave of religious persecution in Russia reached Karelia, as the local FSB simultaneously opened three criminal cases against Jehovah's Witnesses, naming Aleksey Smelov, 44, from Kondopoga, and Maksim Amosov, 42, and Nikolay Leshchenko, 57, from Petrozavodsk. Each was the subject of a search, and a written recognizance agreement was taken from each. On July 31, 2019, in total, six searches in the homes of believers took place in the town of Kondopoga, and at least 11 searches were conducted in the city of Petrozavodsk.
On the evening of August 6, 2019, four FSB officers with witnesses came to the apartment of Yevgeniy Aksenov, a native of Khabarovsk, and his family in Khabarovsk. During the search, they overturned everything and seized a computer hard drive. On July 24, 2019, an order citing criminal activity was issued to prosecute him. The decision was signed by D. Pozdnyakov, senior investigator of the investigative department of the FSB of Russia in Khabarovsk Territory. The "guilt" of Yevgeniy Aksenov, according to the investigation, is that in April 2018, he, together with friends, met in the conference hall of the hotel complex and read the Holy Scriptures. Law enforcement officials regard this as a continuation of extremist activity.
Now under house arrest, Maksim Khalturin, 45, continues to care for his elderly parents. He himself draws strength reading letters from people aware of his situation. He could receive letters while in jail, but under house arrest, correspondence is prohibited.
On the morning of July 29, 2019, in Novosibirsk, another wave of police raids targeted apartments of believers. The new subjects were Igor Muravyov, Anton Shakhmatov, Oleg Epifanov, Sergey Kozlyuk, and Aleksandr Serikov. Investigators suspect them of professing the faith of Jehovah's Witnesses. Their personal belongings were seized.
On May 30, 2019, in the town of Karpinsk (Sverdlovsk region), a criminal case was initiated against 19-year-old Darya Dulova solely on religious grounds. Investigators believe that she professes the views of Jehovah's Witnesses. For the same reason, her disabled mother has been under a recognisance agreement for a year.
On July 31, 2019, the Federal Security Service for the Republic of Karelia searched at least 15 homes and workplaces of citizens considered to be Jehovah's Witnesses in the city of Petrozavodsk and the town of Kondopoga. Men and women were detained for interrogation, some for the whole night. There has been no communication with several who apparently still are being held.
Since June 1, 2019, Jehovah's Witnesses Marat Abdulgalimov, Arsen Abdullaev, Anton Dergalev, and Mariya Karpova have been held in the Makhachkala detention center because of their faith. On July 25, 2019, Dalgat Hadgiev, a judge of the Sovetsky District Court of Makhachkala, ordered to prolong their detention until September 27, 2019, despite the fact that the only accusation against them was their religion. All four are clearly aware that they have not done anything wrong or illegal, and maintain a positive attitude.
On July 24, 2019, the judge of the Central District Court of Kemerovo, Elena Lapina, placed under house arrest for one month and 27 days two peaceful Kemerovo residents: Sergey Yavushkin, 58, and Aleksandr Bondarchuk, 45. Prior to that, they spent almost two days in a temporary detention center.
On July 17, 2019, at 10:40, six people masquerading as social security workers searched the apartment of 67-year-old Nadezhda Kurakina, in Trans-Baikal Territory. The uninvited guests, however, were actually representatives of law enforcement (3 major and 1 captain), as well as two persons serving as witnesses. They confiscated personal paper records and a tablet from the elderly woman.
On July 17-18, 2019, Witnesses’ homes were searched in the city of Kirov. In the apartment of Anton Vasyukov, 48, computers were confiscated. Details of the search of Aleksey Okatiev, 62, and Yuriy Geraskov, 63, are unknown. In the city there are three identical criminal cases against 11 Jehovah's Witnesses. A citizen of Poland, Andrzej Oniszczuk, has been kept in a detention center there more than 280 days.
As of July 31, 2019, the total number of searches in the homes of Jehovah's Witnesses had reached 587. In two years since the ban took effect, 90 criminal cases were opened against Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. At least 241 people are either suspects, accused or convicted. After the verdict against Dennis Christensen in February 2019, Russian law enforcement increased the pressure, evident by the fact that as of February 6, 2019, searches numbered only 296. In total at least 129 Witnesses have been sent to detention centers, and 39 of them, including six women, are still behind bars.
In the morning of June 26, 2019, in Budyonnovsk (Stavropol Territory), searches were conducted in six homes of Witnesses. These intrusions of law enforcement officers are connected to a series of arrests in nearby Neftekumsk, where three people have been in jail more than seven months.