Court in Rostov-on-Don restricts liberty of five Jehovah’s Witnesses


Russian Religious News (13 June 2019) –  – Three Jehovah’s Witnesses, arrested after searches in Rostov-on-Don, were placed in custody and another two are under house arrest. The detained believers were placed in a room with murderers, their attorney reported. The cases of Jehovah’s Witnesses force one to consider clarification of the indicators of extremism, ombudsman Tatiana Moskalkova notes in her report.


As Kavkazskii Uzel reported, early in the morning of 22 May searches were conducted in several apartments of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Rostov-on-Don, and some believers were arrested.


Among the detainees of 22 May in Rostov-on-Don were 51-year-old Alexander Parkov, 35-year-old Arsen Avanesov, and his 66-year-old father, Vilen Avanesov. The court ordered all three placed in custody for two months. In the morning of 10 June, 32-year-old Ruslan Alyev and 22-year-old Semen Baibak were arrested in their homes in Rostov-on-Don. On 11 June, the court assigned for both a measure of restriction in the form of house arrest.


Parkov and the Avanesovs were arrested on 24 and 26 May and they were charged on the basis of part 1 of article 282.2 of the CC RF (arranging the activity of an extremist organization), reported Alena Borodina, an attorney who joined the case at the stage of  appeal of the measure of restraint.


Borodina noted also that the condition of the Avanesov father and son leaves much to be desired. “They are both hypertensive and the father has heart disease. Their illnesses are included (they are not included—clarification of Kavkazskii Uzel) in the list of diseases for which they might be released from detention,” the lawyer thinks.


She said that there were no other complaints of illegal actions, if one does not consider the fact that searches were conducted in the homes of all subjects at six o’clock in the morning. “At the same time, the reports of the search and arrest state that all these people were detained at the site of the commission of a crime, while they actually were taken out of bed,” Alena Borodina added.


The day after the arrest, 23 May, Vilen and Arsen Avanessov, as well as Alexander Parkov, described how appointed lawyers put pressure on them (Kavkazskii Uzel addition—security forces put pressure on all detainees. The appointed lawyer put pressure on Arsen Avanesov only, attorney Alena Borodina clarified), urging them to admit their guilt and cooperate with the investigation, in order to receive a measure of restriction not involving imprisonment, Alena Borodina reported.


“They put pressure on everybody. Vilen Avanesov was so sure that he would be released, he did not doubt for a minute. And in the court of appeal, when he delivered his defense speech, he pointed out that he is a peaceful person and he never hurt anybody in his life. He asked, why is he here? Now they (the Avanesovs and Parkov) are sitting in the SIZO along with murderers,” Alena Borodina described.


She said that originally Vilen was placed in a room where six persons were held, Arsen had 12 cellmates, and Parkov did not go to the SIZO. “They are now in a special chamber, two persons each, “serious ones” (those who are held on serious articles) are always together, those on whom a ‘dozen’ shines,” the lawyer noted.


She thinks the situation is absurd where believing people are placed behind bars for the fact that they met together, prayed, and sang songs.


“From the materials of the case it transpires that for a whole year the believers were under surveillance—wiretapping of telephone conversations and other operational search activities. As it turned out, utilities workers came to all their houses and most likely they installed a wiretap in the house,” Alena Borodina described.


She said that in the case against Parkov and the Avanesovs there is information about other believers in whose homes searches were conducted in May and June of this year. “But I do not know whether they will be a single joint case. These three were arrested back on 22 May. But according to my information there were 21 searches in all among Jehovah’s Witnesses. They made Arsen Avanesov the main subject. He and his father and Parkov are in custody. And the two in whose home there was a recent search—Alyev and Baibak—are under house arrest. But, judging by the investigator’s words, the appetite of the investigation is growing, and they intend to involve some more,” Alena Borodina said.


Ruslan Alyev will not appeal the decision regarding house arrest.

There were no procedural violations noted in the original detention and subsequent actions with respect to Ruslan Alyev, lawyer Roman Kakusev, who concluded an agreement with the Alyev family, noted. He said no appeal against the selection of a measure of restriction will be attempted.


“We will not appeal because my client agrees with the measure of restriction. It depends largely on the position of the investigator. The investigator himself filed a petition that was for house arrest,” Roman Kakusev described for a Kavkazskii Uzel corresondent. He noted at the same time that it would be difficult under these circumstances to get a signed pledge not to depart.


At the present time, the lawyer said, Alyev’s case is being investigated separately from the other cases of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “He is the only defendant in his case. According to the Criminal Procedural Code, the accusation must be presented within ten days, if there is one,” Roman Kakusev pointed out.


He also noted that he does not possess any information about what investigative actions the investigator plans.


Ruslan Alyev’s wife, Kristina, also confirmed for a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent that there had not been any clear violations and force against her husband or herself on the part of security forces. At the same time, the woman refused to give detailed information about her husband and the circumstances of the search and arrest, noting only that Ruslan Alyev is under house arrest in his place of residence.


Investigator Mikhail Antipov refused to tell a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent about the course of his investigations in cases against Jehovah’s Witnesses. “I do not have the right to comment on anything,” he declared.


Moskalkova voiced Jehovah’s Witnesses’ complaints


Appeals to the commissioner for human rights in Russia in 2018 showed that after the liquidation of divisions of Jehovah’s Witnesses, believers found themselves deprived of rights to religious liberty, Tatiana Moskalovkova’s states in her report, which she presented to President Vladimir Putin on 10 June. On 11 June the report was published in Rossiiskaia Gazeta.


Incidents involving followers of Jehovah’s Witnesses force one to consider the necessity of clarifying the indicators of extremist activity specified in article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the RF, this report notes.


“Without doubt, any extremist activity is impermissible, but also impermissible are the vague criteria categorizing religious materials as extremist when in fact any federal judge, on the basis of his own consideration, can prohibit any book, image, video, or audio tape,” Moskalkova declares.


In the opinion of the ombudsman, to strengthen the guarantees of the rights of citizens there are needed strict legislative, and not judgment-related, criteria expanding the administrative and judicial consideration and permitting the recognition of any materials and convictions as extremist.


At the same time, the ombudsman’s report also mentions complaints about “persistent missionary activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Noting that devotees of Jehovah’s Witnesses should not infringe the rights of other people, the ombudsman declares that they should not be prosecuted on subjective bases.


Earlier Kavkazskii Uzel has reported about the arrests in late May of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Volgograd and several of the detainees were held in custody. On 6 June, the FSB declared that security forces in Dagestan halted the activity of 15 cells of Jehovah’s Witnesses. According to security agents, the detainees put pressure on adherents because of group study of extremist literature.

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