SYRIA: Towards an international alliance of governments to support persecuted Christians

– Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Russia and the USA are the first candidates

Source: en.kremlin.ru

HRWF (02.11.2019) – At the end of October, Viktor Orban, Hungary’s Prime Minister, organized a conference to which he invited Russia’s President Putin and leaders of various Christian denominations from the Middle East to pave the way to an international alliance of European and other governments ready to prioritize support Christians in the Middle East and Africa persecuted by the Islamic State and other driving forces of political Islam.

A number of European governments – Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – are planning to join such an alliance. The Vatican is interested in these developments.

Building up on his political and military success in Syria, Putin is now finding new allies in Europe where he wants to appear as the sole protector of Christians in the Middle East.

Russia and Hungary to discuss persecuted Christians

 Vatican News (01.11.2019) – Hungary wants to set up an international alliance of governments to support persecuted Christians in especially the Middle East, Africa, and other areas. The announcement came a day before Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Russian President Vladimir Putin were to discuss the issue in Budapest with Middle East church leaders.

 By Stefan J. Bos

Hungary’s state secretary, for the aid of persecuted Christians, Tristan Azbej, is worried. He told Vatican News that Christians are now the most persecuted people in the world.

That’s why, he says, Hungary wants to set up an international alliance to help Christian believers and other faith minorities during an upcoming conference next month. “We have an aim of collecting and mobilizing governments on one platform. That would coordinate its efforts to help the persecuted Christians of the Middle East, Africa, and also other minorities who are persecuted for their religion and belief,” he explained.

Coordination underway 

The Hungarian government is already coordinating efforts with the United States and Poland it seeks cooperation with other countries of Central and Eastern Europe such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Hungary says the move is also aimed to help persecuted to stay in their own countries rather than emigrate to the West.

The country has spent tens of millions of dollars on humanitarian aid, including such as rebuilding hospitals, schools, and churches in war-torn Syria and other nations.

The aid was welcomed at a conference in Budapest Tuesday attended by crucial church leaders representing Catholic, Orthodox and other Christians in the Middle East.

Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of the Syriac Orthodox Church noted that Christians feel alone amid ongoing violence that even killed infants. “Many times, we feel we are abandoned as Christians of the Middle East. We feel that we have no friends. That nobody cares about us,” he said.

Own interests 

“We have seen throughout these years of war that countries and governments are most interested in their interests about imposing their ideas and their agendas. But they don’t want to really care about the people,” the patriarch stressed.

He cited plans by the United States to protect oilfields in Syria as examples of such alleged egocentric behavior.

The patriarch and other church leaders warned there is little time to prevent the extinction of Christian communities in the Middle East.

Most Christians have fled the troubled region amid attacks by Islamic State and other extremist groups.

Recommended reading

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/world/news/2019-11/russia-hungary-protect-persecuted-christians-middle-east.html

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/61937

https://mospat.ru/en/2019/10/31/news179377/

https://hungarytoday.hu/orban-after-putin-meeting-russia-west-cooperation-in-hungarys-interest/

https://en.abouna.org/en/content/putin-orbán-patriarchs-east-discuss-situation-mideast-christians

https://cruxnow.com/church-in-europe/2019/10/31/hungarys-orban-good-relations-with-russia-are-a-necessity-can-help-middle-east-christians/

Putin pledges to ‘do everything to protect Christians in the Middle East’

 by Jeffrey Cimmino

After a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Wednesday, Putin expressed sorrow over the persecution experienced by Christians in the Middle East, according to the Associated Press. Russian leaders have worked to develop close ties with Syria’s Christian communities. Melkite Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart has called Russia’s intervention in the country a source of “hope for the country’s Christians.”

“The Middle East is the cradle of Christianity, and Christians are in peril there, facing persecution, being killed, raped, and robbed,” said Putin. “Russia will do everything to protect Christians in the Middle East. We must help them restore and preserve their holy sites, preserve their congregations.”

At a meeting later in the day, Putin expressed concern for the “massive exodus of Christians from the Middle East.”

“We are watching what’s happening to the Christians in the Middle East with tears in our eyes,” said Putin.

Russia’s efforts to work closely with Syria’s Christians have also earned praise from Syrian President Bashar Assad, who called Putin “the sole defender of Christian civilization one can rely on.” Putin has propped up the Assad regime against his opponents in the country’s civil war.

And while many Syrian Christians are concerned about Assad and his Russian backers, they also fear that any new government would either be weak or filled with extremists.




RUSSIA: Six more Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced to years in prison

– HRWF (19.09.2019) – Six Jehovah’s Witnesses from Saratov have been convicted and sentenced to prison for their peaceful Christian worship.
Judge Dmitry Larin of the Leninsky District Court of Saratov sentenced Konstantin Bazhenov and Alexei Budenchuk to 3 years and 6 months in prison; Felix Makhammadiev to 3 years; Roman Gridasov, Gennady German, and Alexei Miretsky to 2 years. Additionally, all of the men have been banned from holding leadership positions in public organizations for a period of 5 years and restriction of freedom for 1 year. All have been charged under Part 1 of Art. 282 of Russian Criminal Code (organization of activities of an extremist organization). The defendants were taken into custody in the courtroom and will be sent to jail. The defense intends to appeal the verdict.
The whole logic of the accusation was based on the speculative thesis that faith in God is “a continuation of the activities of an extremist organization.” As a consequence of this approach, instead of searching and proving the guilt of the defendants, the aim of the investigation was to prove their religious affiliation, despite the fact that no religion is prohibited in Russia. Having proved the religion of the defendants, which they did not hide, the court automatically interpreted this fact as the activity of a prohibited legal entity.
Criminal cases were initiated against all six men as a result of home raids conducted in Saratov on June 12, 2018. Three of the men, Konstantin Bazhenov, Alexey Budenchuk, and Felix Makhammadiev spent almost a year in pretrial detention. All five of the men have families and have been productive members of their community. Alexei Budenchuk has two children who are still in school.
In their final words, the six men quoted from the Bible, thanked the court and law enforcement agencies, and said that they did not harbor animosity toward the persecutors.
Including today’s verdict, Russia has now convicted and sentenced to prison seven men.
Link to images and short biographies for all of the men. You’re welcome to use the images, but we ask that you please include the following credit line: “Courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
As of Sept 19
251 JWs were facing criminal charges
41 were in detention (pretrial or prison)
23 were under house arrest
Over 100 were under restrictions
Source: JW headquarters in the US
Moscow’s religious persecution in Crimea
Today, at the OSCE/ ODIHR Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, the Crimean Human Rights Group stressed that 36 Muslims had been deprived of their freedom on alleged charges of terrorism and extremism although they had never used or advocated violence.
The Crimean Human Rights Group also stressed that three mass searches had been organized in November 2018 among Jehovah’s Witnesses and four of them had been accused of extremism.
This summer, a group of Hare Krishna devotees (Hindus) met in the forest in Sevastopol to sing religious songs. This was reported to the Russian police anti-extremism unit. In August, two of them were fined 5,000 rubles for ‘unlawful missionary activities’. The ‘evidence’ was a video posted by Hare Krishna devotees on social media. However, it is clear on the video that there no other people than themselves and were unable to preach to anyone



BREAKING NEWS: From Ukrainian jails to freedom in Moscow/ List of 35 released prisoners

– List of the 35 prisoners released from Ukrainian jails

HRWF (08.09.2019) – Moscow has not yet published the list of 35 people released from Ukrainian jails and transferred to Russia but Human Rights Without Frontiersmanaged to get such a list from Ukrainska Pravda with some additional corrections from other sources.

Twelve are Russians and twenty-three are citizens of Ukraine.

Eleven of them were pardoned, two refused to leave Ukraine and one had been transferred to Russia earlier.

Victor Ageev, 09/13/1995

Alexander Baranov, 08/11/1983

Aslan Baskhanov, 04/06/1966

Elena Bobovaya, 04/26/1972

Pavel Chernykh, 08/04/1975

Anna Dubenko, 08/18/1982

Stanislav Ezhov, 06/22/1978

Victor Fedorov, 07/18/1969

Ruslan Gadzhiev, 02/10/1973

Vladimir Galich, 01/18/1948

Sergey Gnatiev, 04/13/1988

Denis Khitrov, 04/28/1977

Igor Kimakovsky, 04/28/1972

Olga Kovalis, 08/07/1968

Sergey Kovernik, 02.16.1978

Dmitry Korenovsky, 03/18/1972

Andrey Kostenko, 09/18/1984

Alexey Lazarenko, 10/13/1985

Sergey Lazarev, 05/07/1957

Yuri Lomako, 02/04/1961

Petr Melnichuk, 07/12/1972

Evgeny Mefedov, 05/22/1983

Maxim Odintsov, 04/25/1983

Julia Prosolova, 07/13/1988

Alexander Rakushchin, 03/19/1963

Antonina Rodionova, 09/06/1969

Alexander Sattarov, 12/28/1980

Alexey Sedikov, 10/10/1979

Taras Sinichak, 06.24.1977

Alexander Tarasenko, 07/10/1970

Andrey Tretyakov, 10/18/1973

Vladimir Tsemakh, 04/07/1961

Andrey Vaskovsky, 12/25/1991

Kirill Vyshinsky, 19/02/1967

Arkady Zhidkikh, 11/19/1967

Two prisoners (Ruslan Gadzhiev and Taras Sinichak) refused to be part of the swap and were replaced.

Ruslan Gadzhiev, who is listed as being exchanged, refused to leave Ukraine, considering himself innocent, according to Valentin Rybin, a lawyer for Russian citizens who were held in Ukraine. Gadzhiev had been arrested in the Donbass in January 2015.

Taras Sinichakis now in Ivano-Frankivsk, where he is being held under house arrest, according to his lawyer Yaroslav Zeykan. On August 19, SBU officers offered to take him to Koncha-Zaspa where other exchange participants were waiting for their departure to Moscow. However, Sinichak refused because he considers himself a citizen of Ukraine, does not admit any guilt and does not want to be extradited to Russia.

Taras Sinichak worked in the military sanatorium “Sudak” in Crimea. After the annexation of Crimea, the institution became subordinate to the Ministry of Defense of Russia. Sinichak did not leave Crimea and went on working in the sanatorium. He was arrested in February 2016 when he moved to mainland Ukraine to attend the funeral of a relative. The prosecutor’s office regarded this as desertion and high treason.




BREAKING NEWS: Ukraine-Russia prisoner swap: 70 prisoners released in all

– HRWF (07.09.2019) – The prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia has finally taken place this Saturday afternoon but Ukrainian media and “our” media in the West almost only focus on the 35 prisoners arriving in Ukraine and fail to investigate properly about the background of the 35 prisoners claimed by Moscow.

The swap has two sides. Who are those 35 people who were in Ukrainian jails? Were they political prisoners? What were they charged with? What is their background?

This article will try to bring some light on a number of people who will find a safe haven in Russia. Western journalists are encouraged to further investigate this side of the exchange of prisoners.

35 prisoners in Russia recover their freedom in Ukraine

The press service of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has posted a full list of Ukrainians who returned home on September 7, 2019 as part of a prisoner swap between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. See
https://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/ukrayinci-yaki-povernulisya-na-batkivshinu-7-veresnya-u-ramk-57137

The list includes 11 political prisoners:

Roman Sushchenko, Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Volodymyr Balukh, Stanislav Klykh, Mykola Karpiuk, Oleksiy Syzonovych, Pavlo Hryb, Edem Bekirov, Yevhen Panov, and Artur Panov.

In addition, 24 Ukrainians sailors captured by the Russian Federation in the Kerch Strait on November 25, 2018 were freed today:

– Roman Mokriak, commander of the Berdyansk armored naval boat;
– Yuriy Bezyazychny, motorist-electrician;
– Andriy Artemenko, senior seaman gunner;
– Andriy Eyder, alarm seaman gunner;
– Bohdan Holovash, graduate of the Institute of Naval Forces;
– Denys Hrytsenko, commander of the 1st Division of the Naval Command Raid Guard Ships;
– Vasyl Soroka, captain, was on board of the Berdyansk armored naval boat;
– Bohdan Nebylytsia, commander of the Nikopol armored naval boat;
– Viacheslav Zinchenko, alarm seaman gunner;
– Serhiy Tsybizov, alarm seaman gunner;
– Serhiy Popov, deputy commander of the division for electromechanical units – Chief of the electromechanical service of the 1st division of the Naval Command Raid Guard Ships;
– Vladyslav Kostyshyn, graduate of the Institute of Naval Forces;
– Andriy Oprysko, motorist-electrician of the Vyshhorod armored naval boat;
– Adnriy Drach, captain, was on board of the Nikopol armored naval boat;
– Oleh Melnychuk, commander of the Yanu Kapu tugboat.
– Mykhailo Vlasiuk, motorist-electrician;
– Viktor Bespalchenko, seaman gunner;
– Volodymyr Tereshchenko, seaman gunner; – Yevhen Semydotsky, foretopman;
– Volodymyr Lisoviy, commander of the 31st division of the logistics vessels;
– Andriy Shevchenko, Chief Petty Officer of the division;
– Volodymyr Varimez, senior radiotelegraph operator of the Smila training boat of the 31st division of the logistics vessels;
– Serhiy Chuliba, commander of the division of motorists of the Nova Kakhovka training boat of the 31st division of the logistics vessels;
– Yuriy Budzylo, commander of the radio control platoon of the 21st separate company of the naval command.

Russian security forces arrested film director Oleh Sentsov in Simferopol on May 10, 2014. Student Oleksandr Kolchenko was captured by Russia in a week. They were charged with preparing terrorist acts. Kolchenko was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in a high-security penal colony.

The Supreme Court of Chechnya in May 2016 sentenced Ukrainian citizens Stanislav Klykh and Mykola Karpiuk to 20 and 22.5 years in prison, respectively, for alleged gang-related activities, murder and attempted murder of Russian military servicemen. The Russian investigation alleged that Klykh and Karpiuk set up groups in Ukraine to participate in fighting against the Russian army for independent Chechnya during the first Chechen war.

Pavlo Hryb was just 19 when he was abducted by the FSB from Belarus on August 24, 2017, after going there to meet who he thought was a young woman he had chatted with online and fell in love with. He was tried in Russia on trumped-up “terrorist” charges as investigators claim he instructed an accomplice to set off an explosive device at a Russian schoolyard. Russia’s North-Caucasian District Military Court on March 22 sentenced Hryb to six years in a penal colony for allegedly “promoting terrorism.”

Volodymyr Balukh was detained by Russia’s FSB Federal Security Service on December 8, 2016. FSB operatives claimed that they had allegedly found 90 ammunition rounds and several TNT explosives in his attic. On July 5, 2018, a Russian-controlled in Crimea sentenced him to five years in a penal colony and a RUB 10,000 fine. On October 3, 2018, the so-called “Supreme Court of Crimea” reviewed Balukh’s original verdict and reduced his term to four years and 11 months.

The FSB detained Roman Sushchenko at a Moscow airport upon his arrival on September 30, 2016. He was charged with “espionage,” as the Russian authorities insisted he was an “operative” of Ukraine’s intelligence service. Moscow’s city court on June 4, 2018, sentenced him to a 12-year term in a high-security colony.

In August 2017, Artur Panov was sentenced in Russia to eight years in prison for allegedly planning a terrorist attack in Rostov-on-Don.

Russian authorities arrested Yevhen Panov in August 2016, charging him with being part of a “saboteur group” plotting a series of terrorist attacks on the peninsula infrastructure. On July 13, 2018, the “supreme court” of Russian-annexed Crimea sentenced him to eight years in a high-security penal colony.

Oleksiy Syzonovych in July 2017 was sentenced in Russia to 12 years in prison. He was charged with plotting terrorist attacks in Rostov region, illegal border crossing and illegal possession of explosives.

On December 12, 2018, Russian security forces detained Bekirov at the de-facto border between mainland Ukraine and Russia-occupied Crimea. He was accused of storing, distributing and transporting more than 10 kg of TNT and 190 rounds of live ammo.

On the morning of November 25, 2018, Russia blocked the passage to the Kerch Strait for the Ukrainian tugboat “Yany Kapu” and two armored naval boats “Berdyansk” and “Nikopol,” which were on a scheduled re-deployment from the Black Sea port of Odesa to the Azov Sea port of Mariupol. All 24 crew members on board were charged with “illegal border crossing.”

Source: Unian

Pictures and videos are available at

https://www.unian.info/politics/10677021-ukraine-russia-prisoner-swap-official-list-of-freed-ukrainians.html

35 prisoners in Ukraine claimed by Russia were released: 12 Russians and 23 Ukrainians

On Saturday 7 September, a TU-204 plane flew from Boryspil Airport to the Vnukovo airport on board of which there were 35 citizens of Russia and Ukraine detained in Ukrainian prisons: 12 are Russians, 23 are citizens of Ukraine. Who are they?

Among them was a Russian citizen, Evgeny Mefyodov, a former participant in the 2nd May 2014 demonstration in Odessa and survivor of the tragic fire in the House of Trade Unions in which 42 anti-Maidan demonstrators lost their lives (*). He was then directly sent to prison from the hospital. He was prosecuted as one of the alleged organizers of the riots leading to that tragedy, but the court acquitted him. He was however not released. He was kept in detention on charges of separatism and spent more than 5 years in jail without being sentenced.

Kirill Vyshinsky, the chief editor of RIA Novosti Ukraine (2014-2018) was charged with treason and backing the fighters from the self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine, a claim that he denies. He had been released on bail in late August after more than a year of detention.

Another person to have been swapped is Vladimir Tsemakh (58), who led the air defense of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). Kyiv charged him with terrorism – a standard accusation against separatists in the DPR. Tsemakh, who was arrested by Ukrainian authorities in June, had been recorded on video saying that he commanded an anti-air brigade in eastern Ukraine and hid evidence of a Buk missile system. Dutch investigators say separatists used a Russian-made Buk missile to shoot down the Malaysia Airlines jet with 298 on board, most of whom were Dutch.

Tsemakh’s name made its way into the foreign press recently after the Dutch-led investigative team said it believes he is a valuable witness in the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 that killed all 298 people on board in 2014.
President Zelenskiy faced criticism at home and in the European parliament over the inclusion in the swap of a potential witness in the MH17 investigation. Recently, Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said that the prisoner trade had been delayed so that investigators could question Tsemakh before he was sent to Russia.

Among the other released persioners were also Elena Bobova, Valery Pikalov, Denis Khitrov and Alexander Rakushin, held in the Odessa a pre-trial detention center.

Investigation is open to the identity and background of all the others.

Sources: Odessa Timer, Russia Today, Moscow Times and BBC

Footnote

See HRWF report on the 2nd May 2014 Odessa Tragedy published after a fact-finding mission carried out in the Ukrainian seaport in the same month:

https://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Odessa-2nd-May-2014-Tragedy.pdf

(*) At the beginning of the clashing pro-Maidan and anti-Maidan demonstrations in the city centre, 6 people died from gunshots: four or five pro-Maidan demonstrators were first killed and an anti-Maidan died from his injuries a few days later. Later on the same day, 42 participants in an anti-Maidan picket with tents lost their lives at Kulikovo Square/ Trade Union building: 32 died from gas poisoning, 7 fell from the building and 3 died from various injuries and burns.

This tragedy was the result of the mismanagement, negligence and non-action of the law enforcement forces as well as the firemen.




RUSSIA: Jehovah’s Witnesses: 612 home raids since the 2017 ban

– HRWF (07.08.2019) – The state repression of Jehovah’s Witnesses is accelerating month after month in Russia according to recent statistics provided by the headquarters of their movement in the US to Human Rights Without Frontiers, such as those about home raids: 612.

2018

281 (23.4/month)

2019 (Jan-July)

331 (47.2/month)

Over 100% increase from 2018

June/July 2019

139 (69.5/month)

Nearly 200% increase from 2018

As of July 31, 2019

241 JWs facing criminal charges

39 in detention (pretrial or prison)

27 under house arrest

As of Aug 5

244JWs facing criminal charges

39in detention (pretrial or prison)

27under house arrest

Over 100 under a variety of other restrictions




RUSSIA: Prosecutions against religious organizations and believers in June and July

SOVA Center (01.08.2019) – https://bit.ly/33cL3Rb– In July, we learned about several administrative prosecution cases related to religious literature that we consider inappropriately prohibited. Back in early June, the Orenburg District Court of the Orenburg Region ruled against Rustam Yerzhakovsky, a citizen of Kazakhstan, who intended to export to Turkey one copy of The Fortress of a Muslim – a book that has been recognized as extremist in Russia. Yerzhakovsky was fined one thousand rubles with confiscation of a banned book under Article 16.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (non-observance of interdictions and (or) restrictions on exportation of goods from the customs territory of the Eurasian Economic Union). The Fortress of a Muslim is a popular collection of prayers for every day, which, in our opinion, contains no signs of incitement to religious hatred, therefore the courts did not have grounds to recognize it as extremist.

In late July, Khava Shakhtamirova, a resident of Novy Urengoy, was fined two thousand rubles under Article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offenses for the fact that she offered passersby to study the brochure “Women in Islam versus Women in Judeo-Christian Tradition.” We regard the ban on this book as inappropriate since its text is respectful of Judaism and Christianity.

In mid-July, the Supreme Court of Russia reduced by three months the lengthy terms of imprisonment faced by each of the four Crimea residents convicted in the Bakhchysarai Hizb ut-Tahrircase: Enver Mamutov, Rustem Abiltarov, Zevri Abseitov, and Remzi Memetov. They were convicted under Article 205.5 Part 1 or Part 2 (organizing the activities of a terrorist organization or participation in it) and under Article 278 utilizing Article 35 Part 2 and Article 30 Part 1 of the Criminal Code (preparation for forcible seizure of power by an organized group by prior conspiracy). We believe that accusing members of Hizb ut-Tahrir of involvement in terrorist activities solely on the basis of their party activities (holding meetings, reading literature, etc.) is inappropriate. Qualifying any positive comments on Hizb ut-Tahrir activities as appeals for terrorism or justification of terrorism is also inappropriate.

Prosecutions against Jehovah’s Witnessescontinued in July. Early in the month, Alexander Solovyov, a follower of this doctrine in Perm, was found guilty of participation in the activity of an extremist organization (Article 282.2 Part 2 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced to a fine of 300 thousand rubles.

In the Nizhny Novgorod Region, cases under Article 282.2 Parts 1 and 2 of the Criminal Code (organizing the activity of an extremist organization and participation in it) were opened in July against nine Jehovah’s Witnesses, two of whom – Alexei Oreshkov and Alexander Vavilov – were also incarcerated. Sergey Yavushkin and Alexander Bondarchuk were put under house arrest in Kemerovo under Article 282.2 Part 2 of the Criminal Code

Two Jehovah’s Witnesses were arrested in Kaluga; one of them, Roman Makhnyov, stated that he had been subjected to inhuman treatment by the local FSB officers.

Searches in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ residences were conducted in a number of regions, including in the Trans-Baikal Region, which has never reported any information about criminal proceedings opened against Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The decision to recognize the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and 395 local organizations as extremist was made by the Supreme Court of Russia in April 2017. We believe that this decision, which entailed mass criminal proceedings against the believers under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code, was legally unfounded, and regard it as a manifestation of religious discrimination.

Falun Gong and Faizrakhmanist community (Muslim new religious movement)

Sova Center (01.07.2019) – https://bit.ly/2OK9vGn– We found out in June that the Nevsky District Court of St. Petersburg deemed the book Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party (Moscow, 2015) prohibited for distribution in Russia. The decision was made in late May upon request from the City Prosecutor’s Office. This book has been distributed by the followers of the Falun Gong spiritual practice (its authorship belongs to the Epoch Times media project). The court relied on the expert opinion, which stated that the anthology contained psychological signs of incitement of hostility “against the Communist Party” and statements “aimed at inciting social enmity against followers of the Chinese Communist Party and communism in general.” In our opinion, the ban against Nine Commentaries on the Communist Partylacks legal justification, despite the sharp criticism of the CCP’s activity contained in the book. No particular political party (especially a foreign one) and no particular ideology is entitled to protection from criticism. The authors of the book stay within the framework of historical and political discussion, do not allow any manifestations of ethnic xenophobia, do not advocate violence, and, on the contrary, emphasize the importance of a “non-violent transition to a society liberated from the CCP.” We believe that the decision of the Yekaterinburg court, which had previously declined the prosecutorial request to ban the book for inciting hatred toward the Chinese supporters of the CCP, was appropriate, while the decision of the St. Petersburg court constitutes excessive interference with freedom of expression.

The Sovetsky District Court of Kazan in mid-June sentenced five residents of the republic, having found them guilty of continuing the activities of the banned Faizrakhmanist community. Depending on their respective roles, they were found guilty of committing crimes under Parts 1 and 2 of Criminal Code Article 282.2 (organizing activity of an extremist organization or participating in it), Part 1.1 of Article 282.2 (involvement of others in activities of an extremist organization), or Part 1 of Article 282.3 (financing activity of an extremist organization). As the spiritual leader of the community, 52-year-old Gumar Ganiev was sentenced to seven years in prison to be served in a minimum-secutity penal colony; 58-year-old Talgat Gizatullin and 41-year-old Rustam Galiev were sentenced to five years, 58-year-old Glimyan Khazetdinov to six years, and 61-year-old Mudaris Ibragimov – to five and a half years in a penal colony. The Faizrakhmanist community founded by former deputy Mufti of Tatarstan Faizrakhman Sattarov, was recognized as an extremist organization in 2013 after the relevant agencies found out that its members were leading an isolated way of life and did not seek help from medical institutions or send their children to schools. Such organizational features are not subject to anti-extremist legal regulation. As far as we know, the community led an insulated but not aggressive way of life; therefore the decision to recognize it as extremist was, in our opinion, inappropriate. Accordingly, we consider the sentences to the Sattarov’s followers inappropriate as well.