SOVA (12.03.2018) – http://bit.ly/2pttOYw – On February 7, 2018, the Supreme Court of Russia introduced in the State Duma an extensive bill to amend the procedural codes. It includes changes to the procedures that pertain to court cases related to recognizing materials as extremist or recognizing information as banned. According to the Supreme Court’s proposal, these cases should be transferred from the civil to the administrative jurisdiction. The bill establishes a clear procedure for considering such cases. When considering a prosecutorial claim to recognize materials as extremist, a court is expected to involve persons, whose rights and legitimate interests may be affected by the court decision, in the proceedings. In addition, “in the event that a person, whose actions served as the reason for filing an administrative claim, has been identified,” the court shall involve such a person as a defendant in the case and hold them responsible for the legal costs. If such person has not been identified, the bill proposes involving an ombudsman – of the RF or of the subject of the Federation – “for giving an opinion” in the case. The court will be able to take “preliminary protective measures in the form of restricting access to extremist materials” in the course of the proceedings, and, if the claim is satisfied, the decision to ban these materials would go into effect immediately. Cases related to recognizing information as prohibited for dissemination in Russia are to be treated in a similar way. This change will put an end to prohibitions enacted without adversarial process. Another significant difference in the procedure is Roskomnadzor’s involvement, which becomes mandatory. We provide more details about the planned reform of the legal procedure in “extremism-related” cases in Russian at http://www.sova-center.ru/misuse/publications/2017/10/d38082/.
Prosecutions against Religious Organizations and Believers
On the first day of February it was reported that a criminal case under Part 2 of Article 282.2 (participation in the activities of an extremist organization) had been opened in the Kemerovo Region with regard to the activities of the Kemerovo Jehovah’s Witnesses community. The case was opened on January 19, and, as early as January 23, searches, guarded by Rosgvardia, were carried out at 15 locations.
A few days later, reports started to appear that a case under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code was opened in connection with the activities of the Jehovah’s Witnesses community in Belgorod. The police and SOBR conducted searches in at least 16 homes of the believers; the residents were taken to the local department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, fingerprinted and issued summonses for interrogation. Two citizens – Anatoly Shaliapin and Sergei Voikov – were detained for 48 hours as suspects in the case and later released under travel restrictions.
In late February, the Investigative Committee reported a newly opened criminal case under Part 2 of Article 282.2 against a resident of Oryol for participation in the activities of a local Jehovah’s Witnesses organization. According to the investigation, “the suspect, being a member of the local religious organization “Jehovah’s Witnesses – Oryol,” recognized as extremist and liquidated by the court decision, took part in the religious meeting of the said organization on February 26, 2017, where he delivered a public address that contained propaganda of the superiority of the banned organization.” The name of the suspect has not been published. The local religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Oryol was recognized as an extremist by the regional court back in 2016. Dennis Christensen, a citizen of Denmark, has been under arrest in Oryol since May 2017; he was charged with organizing the activities of an extremist organization.
The Prosecutor’s Office of the city of Prokhladny (Kabardino-Balkaria) filed four court claims in February seeking to restrict access to websites that “include various sections, publications, magazines, books, videos, or news about the religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
We would like to remind that the Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Center in Russia, along with 395 local religious organizations, was recognized as an extremist organization in April 2017 by the Supreme Court of Russia. In our view, closing down Jehovah’s Witnesses organizations on the charges of extremism, bans against their materials and harassment of their community members have no legitimate justification and constitute a clear manifestation of religious discrimination.
It became known in early February that the Zheleznodorozhny District Court of Barnaul received a criminal case under Article 282.2 part 1 of the Criminal Code (involving a person in the activities of an extremist organization), opened against a migrant from Central Asia, born in 1971. According to the investigation, the defendant conducted secret religious meetings with residents of the Altai Region in a café of Central Asian cuisine in Barnaul in 2015, during which he taught them “the fundamental essentials and tenets of the international religious extremist organization Tablighi Jamaat,” basing his teachings on the provisions from the literature placed on the Federal List of Extremist Materials, among other sources. We view the prohibition against Tablighi Jamaat as unfounded and consider prosecution of its supporters inappropriate as well. Tablighi Jamaat is engaged in peaceful propaganda of Islam.
In early February, a verdict against Ilshat Battalov, a follower of the Islamist radical Hizb ut-Tahrir party, was issued in Kazan. He was found guilty under Article 205.5 Part 1 of the Criminal Code (organizing the activities of a terrorist organization) and sentenced to 17 years imprisonment in a maximum security penal colony.
Adkhamdzhon Dzhuraev, arrested in 2017, was charged under Article 205.5 Part 2 (participation in activities of an organization banned for terrorism) and Article 327 Part 3 of the Criminal Code (use of a forged document) in Moscow. His charges include joining the ranks of Hizb ut-Tahrir and distributing the party materials, as well as using a fake passport.
In the last days of February, Chelyabinsk residents Danis Abdrakhmanov and Ruslan Fatkullin were detained on suspicion of cooperation with Hizb ut-Tahrir; both homes were searched.
We would like to reiterate that we view charges of terrorism against Hizb ut-Tahrir’s followers solely on the basis of their party involvement (holding meetings, reading literature, etc.) as unjustified.
At the end of February, the Chebarkul City Court of the Chelyabinsk Region issued a suspended sentence of two years’ with a two-year probation period to 67-year-old assistant to the Imam of the Al-Amin mosque Kh. Dinmukhametov for distributing the brochure A Woman in Islam and in the Judeo-Christian World. The brochure was recognized as extremist in 2015 by the Nizhneserginsky District Court of the Sverdlovsk Region.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, Dinmukhametov knew about this decision, but, nevertheless, distributed four copies of the brochure to his acquaintances without informing them of the ban. We believe that the ban against the brochure A Woman in Islam and in the Judeo-Christian World was not justified. Its author tries to show that Islam gives women more rights and fosters a more respectful attitude toward women than Judaism and Christianity; however, the text is generally written in the spirit of respect for these two religions. Accordingly, we believe that Dinmukhametov was convicted inappropriately.
In February, we learned about several cases of prosecution under Article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offenses for distribution of religious materials, which, in our opinion, were inappropriately recognized as extremist. In Karachay-Cherkessia, the Zelenchuksky District Court fined local resident Zeitulla Bostanov for keeping at home the banned book The Life of the Prophet by Safi-ur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri“for the purpose of mass distribution.” The Malokarachaevsky District Court imposed a fine on Murat Bostanov, a resident of the village of Uchkeken, for possession of the book The Limit of the Willing [Predel Zhelayushchego] by Saleh bin Abdul-Aziz Al ash-Sheikh. In addition, in Moscow, the Ostankino District Court issued a fine of 102 thousand rubles to a bookstore for selling a novel (the Russian title is Forcibly Baptized) by 19th century rabbi and writer Marcus Lehmann about the fate of the Jews, who lived in the Middle Ages in Poland and Lithuania, and about persecution and discrimination they experiences.
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HRWF database of news and information on over 70 countries: https://hrwf.eu/newsletters/forb/
List of hundreds of documented cases of believers of various faiths in 20 countries: https://hrwf.eu/forb/forb-and-blasphemy-prisoners-list/