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SOVA CENTER (08.2018) – https://bit.ly/2wkIZ9Y – We learned in July that the Sovetsky District Court of Krasnoyarsk sentenced the local resident Andrei Dedkov to a fine of 250,000 rubles in early June, having found him guilty of organizing the activities of the extremist association Nurcular (under Article 282.2 Part 1 of the Criminal Code). According to the investigation, Dedkov organized a cell of Nurcular supporters in Krasnoyarsk and arranged religious meetings, where he discussed with believers books by the Turkish theologian Said Nursi. Earlier, in 2015, Dedkov was sentenced to a fine under the same article, but released from punishment due to the expiry of prescription period.

 

In early July, the Oktyabrsky District Court of Novosibirsk sentenced Imam Kamil Odilov to two years in prison under the same article. The charges against Odilov were based on the fact that, after his conviction in a similar case in 2013, he continued his activity, resuming his “home madrassa” classes, and thereby involving new members in the activity of the cell of the banned organization. At the same time, according to the investigation, he kept at home, used during classes and quoted Nursi’s books recognized as extremist.

 

We view as inappropriate both the ban against the Nursi books and the prohibition of Nurcular, which has never existed in Russia at all – there are only individual believers, who face arbitrary persecution for studying books by Nursi, which contain no signs of extremism.

 

In mid-July, the Nikulinsky District Court of Moscow issued a sentence to six Muslims under Article 282.2 Part 2 of the Criminal Code for participation in the activities of the Tablighi Jamaat movement, recognized as extremist. Five believers were sentenced to two years in prison; one more, a retired border guard officer from Kyrgyzstan, pleaded not guilty and was sentenced to two years and six months of imprisonment. The defendants were charged for participating in classes, where they studied the works of the Tablighi Jamaat ideologists, and for participation in developing measures to ensure secrecy of their religious studies. In our opinion, the ban against Tablighi Jamaat and the persecution of its supporters are inappropriate, since the movement is engaged in peaceful propaganda of Islam and has not been implicated in any calls for violence.

 

The Moscow District Military Court, during its visiting session in the Leningrad District Military Court in late July, sentenced eight Muslims accused of continuing the activities of the “St. Petersburg cell” of the banned Islamic radical party Hizb ut-Tahrir seized in 2013 (the cell’s founders had been convicted earlier). All eight were found guilty under Article 205.5 Part 2 of the Criminal Code (participation in the activities of a terrorist organization) and sentenced to real prison terms from 5 years in a minimum security colony to 10.5 years in a maximum security colony. They were also found guilty under Article 282.2 Part 2 of the Criminal Code, but released from payment of the corresponding fine due to the expiry of prescription period under this article.

 

Earlier, in mid-July, the same court sentenced St. Petersburg resident Alla Bespalova to 5 years of imprisonment for participation in the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir. According to the materials in the case, Bespalova was talking about Hizb ut-Tahrir on social networks, recruited friends into the party, gave them the party literature and “imposed ideological views.” She pleaded guilty, and the case was examined using a special trial procedure.

 

On July 30, the Privolzhsky District Military Court sentenced 21 defendants in the case related to their Hizb ut-Tahrir involvement during its visiting session in the Ordzhonikidze District Court of Ufa. Ten defendants were convicted under Article 205.5 Part 1 of the Criminal Code for organizing the activities of a terrorist organization, eleven more – under Part 2 of Article 205.5 for participation in such organization; the majority were also charged under Article 30 Part 1 and Article 278 of the Criminal Code (preparation for the forcible seizure of power). The defendants are facing prison terms from 5 to 24 years with a fine in the amount of 100 to 700 thousand rubles. The unprecedentedly long periods of imprisonment in these sentences under Part 1 of Article 205.5 should be noted. The Muslims, charged in this case, were arrested in Ufa in February 2015. Human rights defenders have reported numerous violations in the course of the investigation including the use of torture against the defendants.

 

We view prosecutions against Hizb ut-Tahrir members on anti-terrorist articles merely on the basis of their party activities (holding meetings, reading literature, etc.) conducted with no purpose to commit terrorist acts as inappropriate.

 

In July 2018, it was reported that a criminal case regarding the continuation of activities of the Faizrakhmanist community, recognized as extremist, was under investigation in Tatarstan. Five people are being investigated in this case. Rustam Galeyev and Galimyan Khazetdinov, charged under Article 282.2 Part 2 of the Criminal Code, are under arrest; according to the investigators, they had recruited members into the religious group, organized its training sessions where they studied forbidden religious literature, called for avoiding medical care and civil duties, and raised money for community activities. The Muslim community, founded by former deputy Mufti of Tatarstan Faizrakhman Sattarov, was recognized as an extremist organization in 2013 after the relevant agencies conducted an investigation of the community and found out that its members were leading an isolated way of life, were forbidden from seeking help from medical institutions and from sending children to schools. Such situations 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 we view the decision to recognize its extremist as inappropriate.

 

Law enforcement authorities continue to increase the scope of prosecutions against Jehovah’s Witnesses under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code for continuing the activities of their local communities, which were banned as extremist in 2017 – inappropriately, in our opinion. The opening of criminal cases is followed by house searches with confiscation of equipment and nighttime interrogations of believers, including elderly people. Law enforcement representatives often break into homes, knocking out doors, and engaging in rough treatment of the residents – believers were injured in at least three cases.

 

We found out in July that the FSB of Russia opened criminal proceedings under Part 1 of Article 282.2 against Gennady Shpakovsky and other unidentified persons in the Pskov Region in late May. Shpakovsky was put under travel restrictions.

 

Four believers in Shuya, the Ivanovo Region, were put under travel restrictions in late June due to new criminal charges. According to the information available to us, Elena Mikhailova (the wife of the previously arrested Dmitry Mikhailov) and Svetlana Shishina were charged under Article 282.2 Part 1 and Article 282.3 Part 1 (financing the activities of an extremist organization). Alexei A. was charged under Part 2 of Article 282.2; Svetlana P. became a suspect under Article 282.2 Part 1 and Article 282.3 Part 1. As part of the case, the law enforcement authorities questioned the 10-year-old girl forcing her to disclose her family’s religious affiliation. Her mother was threatened with charges under Article 150 of the Criminal Code (involving a minor in the commission of a crime).

 

In early July, at the Krasnoyarsk airport, FSB officers detained Andrei Stupnikov; he was arrested the next day as a defendant under Part 1 of Article 282.2. The court used the fact that Stupnikov had been planning to attend a congress of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany, where he could have asked for asylum, to justify its decision on preventive detention.

 

At the same time, Sergei Polyakov and his wife Anastasia Polyakova were arrested in Omsk. They are charged under Part 2 of Article 282.2. Sergei Polyakov was beaten up when he was seized.

 

At the same time, the criminal case under Article 282.2 was reported in Lensk, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). Local resident Igor Ivashin became a defendant in the case and was put under travel restrictions.

 

In mid-July, four believers were charged under different parts of Article 282.2 in Penza. The court ruled to place Vladimir Alushkin in pre-trial detention; Vladimir Kulyasov, Andrei Magliv and Denis Timoshin were placed under house arrest.

 

In the second half of July, searches were carried out in at least three Jehovah’s Witnesses residences in Blagoveshchensk, the Amur Region. One of the believers was charged under Part 2 of Article 282.2.

 

At the same time, two believers – Sergei Britvin (who suffers a disability) and Vadim Levchuk – were arrested in Kemerovo and charged under Part 2 of Article 282.2. During searches, conducted as a part of the investigation, the officers of the local FSB Department stormed one of the apartments from the balcony, despite the fact that the owner had opened the door; she was cut by the shards of broken glass and suffered the forehead and hand injuries.

 

In late July, the Kostroma Regional Prosecutor’s Office announced the opening of a criminal case under Article 282.2 Parts 1 and 2. A married couple, which allegedly continued to hold meetings of the local community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, are the suspects in the case. 22-year-old Sergei was put under arrest by the court; his wife has been facing preventive measures in the form of a ban on certain actions, such as leaving her home at night, communicating with the defendants in the case, sending and receiving mail, using the Internet and other means of communication.

 

At the same time, two new criminal cases for continuing the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses organizations were initiated in Vladivostok and in Nadezhdinsky District of Primorye Region. As reported by the believers, during house searches in Razdolnoye, the Nadezhdinsky District, law enforcement officers hit the 75-year-old apartment owner in the face. In another apartment, in addition to the female owner, the officers found seven people aged 70 and over, including disabled persons. One of the women fell ill and ended up in intensive care. Dmitry Barmakin was arrested in Vladivostok as a defendant charged under Article 282.2 Part 1.

 

In the last days of July, the spouses Mikhail Popov and Elena Popova were detained n Vilyuchinsk of the Kamchatka Region. Mikhail Popov was arrested by the city court, his wife was put under house arrest.

 

In addition, in July the Federal List of Extremist Materials added 19 Jehovah’s Witnesses publications, banned by the decision of the Vyborg City Court and the Leningrad Regional Court in 2017 and decision of the Moscow Regional Court in January 2018. Among them is The Holy Scripture: the New World Translation (2014), that is, the Bible in the Jehovah’s Witnesses translation. Roskomnadzor added 11 Internet pages with the Jehovah’s Witnesses materials, including jw-russia.org (the website of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia) to the Unified Registry of Banned Websites in late July. The decision to block these sites was made by the Kuybyshev District Court of Omsk in March 2018.

 

HRWF Comment

 

HRWF does not consider Hizb ut Tahrir, a religious group, on the grounds that the European Court of Human Rights considers that it is a political group and not a religious group (See Hizb ut Tahrir and Others v. Germany, Application no. 31098/08,  https://bit.ly/2MvXEKz). Consequently, HRWF considers that Hizb ut Tahrir prisoners are political prisoners and not FORB prisoners. HRWF Database of FORB Prisoners (https://hrwf.eu/forb/forb-and-blasphemy-prisoners-list/) does not include members of Hizb ut Tahrir.

 

The European Court declared the complaint of Hizb ut Tahrir inadmissible on the grounds of Article 17 of the European Convention : “the purpose of Article 17, in so far as it refers to groups or to individuals, is to make it impossible for them to derive from the Convention a right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at destroying any of the rights and freedoms set forth in the Convention; … therefore, no person may be able to take advantage of the provisions of the Convention to perform acts aimed at destroying the aforesaid rights and freedoms …” (see Lawless v. Ireland, 1 July 1961, § 7, pp. 45-46, Series A no. 3). Since the general purpose of Article 17 is, in other words, to prevent individuals or groups with totalitarian aims from exploiting in their own interests the principles enunciated in the Convention (see W.P. and Others v. Poland (dec.), no. 42264/98, ECHR 2004-VII, and Norwood v. the United Kingdom, no. 23131/03, ECHR 2004-XI), this Article is applicable only on an exceptional basis and in extreme cases, as indeed is illustrated by the Court’s case-law.”

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Also:

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/

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