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Mass searches of Jehovah's Witnesses in Vologda. One believer was sent to a pre-trial detention center, another was placed under house arrestVologda Region
Early in the morning of December 19, 2019, in Vologda, security forces invaded a number of homes of Jehovah's Witnesses. On December 21, the court sent 45-year-old Nikolai Stepanov, who has a wife and son, to the pre-trial detention center. 67-year-old Yuri Baranov was placed under house arrest by the court, given that his mother needs daily care.
Believers say that in some cases groups of security officers consisted of 4 SOBR fighters, a technical specialist, an investigator, and witnesses. During the searches, electronic devices were seized. After hours of searches, believers, including women and minor children, were detained for interrogations that lasted until 8 p.m. At least 6 searches of believers' homes took place in the city at the same time.
It is known that a criminal case was initiated under Article 282.2 (1) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The believers are suspected not just of worshiping God together, but of allegedly resuming the activities of the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses "Vologda". The case is being investigated by the first department for the investigation of especially important cases (crimes against the person and public safety) of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Vologda Region. Among those who conducted searches or interrogations were investigator N.A. Shilov, investigator Denis Kamensky and detective of the Center for Countering Extremism Viktor Povzderin.
It is obvious that this criminal case, as well as hundreds of other cases in more than 50 regions of Russia, are a direct consequence of the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation to liquidate and ban the activities of all organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. Law enforcement officers inappropriately interpret joint confession of religion as participation in extremist activities, which contradicts Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which guarantees freedom of religion for all.