С места событий

Surveillance Cameras: Security Officers Plant Banned Books on Believers

Stavropol Territory

On September 20, 2016, masked law enforcement officers searched the worship building of Jehovah's Witnesses in the village of Nezlobnaya (Stavropol Territory). The CCTV footage clearly shows the actions of law enforcement officers.

Early in the morning, several cars drove up to the building, people in black masks got out of them. Jumping over the fence, they broke the lock on the gate, cut off the front door with special means and entered the building.

The camera footage shows that the employees were dispersed to different rooms. Several people entered the hall on the first floor and two of them, in the presence of their colleagues, took forbidden literature from under their clothes and put it in a table next to them. Later, employees allegedly withdraw forbidden literature from the exact part of the table where it was placed, while the rest of the shelves remain empty.

As Pavel Puzyrev, chairman of the committee of the local religious organization (LRO) of Jehovah's Witnesses, later explained, the worship building is regularly checked for the presence of foreign objects and prohibited literature. On the eve of the special operation, such a check was carried out as usual. In particular, there was nothing in that table, it was empty.

Among other things, law enforcement officers seized audio and video equipment. When Yevgeny Vernik, a representative of the owner and a member of the LRO committee, arrived at the worship building, law enforcement officers did not allow him to participate in the search. Wernick said: "The senior person in charge of the search did not introduce himself, did not let me read the order. Moreover, when I asked him to provide me with a copy of the order, he rudely demanded that I leave the building. And I had to do it."

According to lawyers, these actions were carried out in violation of the law. For example, there was no search warrant, although there were people in the building. They were not offered to open the door voluntarily, but instead immediately used special equipment. Also, law enforcement officers exceeded their official powers by removing the owner's representative from the search site.

In Nezlobnaya, a search was also conducted in the house of the chairman of the LRO, Pavel Puzyrev. He said: "Some of the officers climbed over the fence, and when they came to our house, there were about 10 of them, they immediately dispersed to different rooms, which is why we could not observe the search. And, for example, the first toss was made in the kitchen. It is noteworthy that a week before these events, Puzyrev became the victim of a provocation: in educational institutions, unknown persons pasted fake leaflets on his behalf. During the search, in addition to prohibited literature, a stack of such leaflets was planted on him. As a result, a protocol on an administrative offense was drawn up against him.

Believers believe that the incident indicates the intention of the authorities to ban their local religious organization, which has been legally operating in the village of Nezlobnaya for 17 years.

"The last time searches were conducted in the homes of Jehovah's Witnesses in the village of Nezlobnaya was in 1985," said Pavel Puzyrev, "At that time, every Jehovah's Witness understood that law enforcement officers could come to him at any time and seize the Bible and Bible literature. History repeats itself. Only now, in 2016, even if you don't have anything forbidden, they can just throw it at you!"

The Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia is already aware of at least 60 plantings and falsifications. "In most cases, believers are only forced to shrug their shoulders helplessly," said Sivulsky Yaroslav, a representative of the center, "However, cases, as in Nezlobnaya, when the toss is recorded on camera, prove a very sad truth: the planting is carried out by those who themselves must protect the law and the law! It is their conscience. It is their responsibility before God and men."