RUSSIA: Freedom of religion or belief: Special bimonthly (16-31.08.2022)

29.08.2022 – Six who met to study their faith on trial in Moscow

Forum 18 – The largest trial for nearly eight years of Muslims who met to study the works of the late Turkish Muslim theologian Said Nursi began in the Russian capital with a preliminary hearing on 25 August. The six Moscow residents stand accused of “organising” and “participating in” the activities of “Nurdzhular”, which was banned as extremist in 2008 but which Muslims in Russia deny ever existed as a formal organisation. If convicted, the six men could face lengthy prison sentences or six-figure fines.

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26.08.2022 – A Mordovia Court sentenced six Saransk-based Jehovah’s Witnesses, including a woman, to two to six years in prison for practicing their faith

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On August 25, 2022, Yelena Simonova, judge of the Leninskiy District Court of Saransk, sentenced six Jehovah’s Witnesses, including a woman and a father of two young children, to gross terms of imprisonment in a penal colony just because of their religion.

The prosecutor requested 2.5 years in a penal colony for Shevchuk, Antonov and Korolev, 4 years and 2 months for the Nikulins, and 6.5 years for Atryakhin. Despite the absence of victims in the case, the court assigned real terms of imprisonment to all believers: for Vladimir Atryakhin—6 years, for Georgiy Nikulin and his wife Yelena—4 years and 2 months each, for Aleksandr Shevchuk, Aleksandr Korolev and Denis Antonov—2 years each. The believers were taken into custody in the courtroom.

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25.08.2022 – Jehovah’s Witnesses Searched in Sevastopol

Sova center – On August 24, 2022, at least three homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses were searched in Sevastopol and Yevpatoriya, and a criminal case was initiated under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (organization of the activities of an extremist organization).

Two believers, 53-year-old Viktor Kudinov and 51-year-old Sergei Zhigalov, were detained; on August 26, the court was to choose a measure of restraint for them. Earlier, Zhigalov and his wife were witnesses in the criminal case of Jehovah’s Witness Viktor Stashevsky. In March 2021, he was sentenced to six and a half years in prison under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code.

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23.08.2022 – Supporters of Tablighi Jamaat sentenced in Ulyanovsk

Sova Center – On August 23, 2022, it became known that the Nikolaevsky District Court of the Ulyanovsk Region found four local residents – M. Rafikov, S. Salkin, A. Shabanov and M. Sadykov – guilty of CC. 1 and 2 Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (organization of the activities of an extremist organization and participation in it).According to information published in the media with reference to the FSB, they were sentenced to terms ranging from two years and eight months to six years and two months of suspended imprisonment. According to law enforcers, 59-year-old Rafikov “held secret meetings, coordinated preaching trips to mosques in other regions of Russia to indoctrinate and involve Muslims in extremist activities,” he was convicted under the first part of the article. The rest were found guilty under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code.

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20.08.2022 – Western publication doubts pope and patriarch can end war

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In Russia now every religious community is feeling the new line of the Kremlin with regard to faith, the Economist posits. Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, repeats official justifications for the war and puts forth his own. The head of the Department of External Church Relations of the RPTs, Metropolitan Ilarion, who received education in the West, refrained from active support of the war and in June 2022 was suddenly demoted and sent to Budapest as bishop.

The former chief rabbi of Moscow, Pinchas Goldshmidt, who recently left the country, says that now it is impossible to maintain “proper but distant” relations with the authorities, like before the war. Now clergy of all denominations say that they must support the invasion.

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19.08.2022 – Three Jehovah’s Witnesses arrested in Novocherkassk

Sova Center – On August 11, 2022, ten homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses were searched in Novocherkassk. 55-year-old Garegin Khachaturyan, 35-year-old Gevorg Yeritsyan and 66-year-old Lyubov Galitsyna were detained, the court took them into custody for two months. Galitsyna was charged under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (participation in the activities of an extremist organization).

There is no information about what charges were brought against Khachaturian and Yeritsyan.

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18.08.2022 – Former confessor of Sredneuralsky Monastery sentenced to 3.5 years in prison

Sova Center – On November 30, 2021, the Izmailovsky Court of Moscow passed a sentence on the former shiigumen Sergiy (Romanov). The court found him guilty under Part 1 of Art. 330 (arbitrariness), part 3 of Art. 148 (violation of the right to freedom of religion), paras. “c”, “d” part 3 of Art. 110.1 (inducement to commit suicide) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

According to the investigation and the court, Romanov prevented the conduct of religious rites and inventory of monastic property, called on the nuns of the monastery to commit suicide, and also published calls for suicide on the Internet.

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17.08.2022 – The prosecutor’s office demands terms of 15 to 17 years in prison for five Crimean Tatars

Sova Center – On August 16, 2022, during the debate in the Southern District Military Court, a representative of the prosecutor’s office demanded that Enver Ametov, Ruslan Suleymanov, Yashar Muedinov, Rustem Sheykhaliev and Osman Arifmemetov be sentenced to long terms of imprisonment, who are charged under Part 2 of Art. 205.2 of the Criminal Code (participation in the activities of a terrorist organization) and Part 1 of Art. 30, art. 278 of the Criminal Code (preparation for a violent seizure of power).According to investigators, all of them are involved in the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamic party that is recognized as a terrorist organization in Russia. For Ametov and Suleymanov, the prosecutor asks for 16 years in a strict regime colony, for Muedinov – 15, for Arifmemetov – 16 and a half, for Sheikhaliev – 17. In addition, the prosecution demands that Sheikhaliev be sentenced to a year and a half of restriction of freedom, and to everyone else – a year.

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16.08.2022 – In Moscow, a Pentecostal pastor was taken into custody on charges of organizing the activities of an undesirable organization

Sova Center – On August 15, 2022, the Basmanny Court of Moscow took into custody until September 30 the pastor of the Church of Evangelical Christians (Pentecostals) “Christ the Savior” Nikolai Ulitin, accused under Part 3 of Art. 284.1 of the Criminal Code (organization of the activities of a foreign or international non-governmental organization, in respect of which a decision has been made to recognize its activities as undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation).

Recall that in several regions in the churches of the “New Generation” searches were carried out as part of the case under this article.

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16.08.2022 – Three years after the mass raid on Jehovah’s Witnesses, searches were again held in the Bryansk Region. Criminal case was initiated.

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On August 11, 2022, in Trubchevsk and Unecha, two cities in the Bryansk Region, searches were carried out at the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some of them were already invaded by the security forces in 2019.

The raid, conducted by officers Center for Combating Extremism (CPE) and the Investigative Committee, took place at least at four addresses. Electronic devices, personal records and friendly letters were confiscated from believers. During subsequent interrogation in the Investigative Committee, citizens used the 51st article of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

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