Religious persecution and issues – Bimonthly Digest June 16-30


29.06.2023 – Russian patriarch tells papal envoy their Churches should work together for peace

Reuters – The head of Russia’s influential Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, told an envoy of Pope Francis on Thursday their churches should work together to avert “negative political developments and serve the cause of peace and justice.”

Kirill is a strong supporter of President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops into Ukraine, while Francis has called repeatedly for an end to the conflict, which has destroyed Ukrainian villages and towns, caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people and driven millions more from their homes.

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29.06.2023 – The Court of Cassation found Vissarion’s followers guilty of obstructing Ren-TV journalists

SOVA – On June 24, 2023, the Eighth Court of Cassation in Kemerovo overturned the acquittal against a member of the Church of the Last Testament, Vasily Belko, handed down by the Kuraginsky District Court in 2022 in a case of obstruction of journalistic activities.

The conviction of another person involved in this case, Anton Anyanov, was upheld by the cassation court.

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28.06.2023 – Court in Moscow sentenced followers of Said Nursi

SOVA – Six defendants in the case were found guilty of involvement in the banned Nurcular association.

On June 27, 2023, the Kuzminsky District Court of Moscow delivered a verdict in the case of involvement in the Nurcular association, recognized as an extremist organization, against six followers of Said Nursi. Defendant Yevgeny Tarasov was sentenced to six and a half years in a general regime colony under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (organization of the activities of an extremist organization), Mukazhan Ksyupov, Parviz Zeynalov and Urdash Abdullayev – six years in prison under the same article, and Ilmir Abdullin and Nikolai Nesterovich – two years and seven months in prison, they were found guilty under Part 2 of Art. . 282.2 of the Criminal Code (participation in the activities of an extremist organization).

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26.06.2023 – Judges “ignore completely” amended Supreme Court guidance on Extremism Law application

Forum 18 – Hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses and dozens of Muslims who read theologian Said Nursi’s works have been jailed or given suspended sentences on “extremism” charges. October 2021 Supreme Court revised guidance for extremism trials directed judges to ascertain defendants’ “specific actions” and “motivation”. Courts have now overturned all eight acquittals resulting from the revised guidance, with one acquitted earlier jailed for 8 years. Early hope has now “completely gone”, Jehovah’s Witness lawyers say. The defence “of course” refers to the Supreme Court guidance in every case, but “the judges ignore it completely”.

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26.06.2023 – Criminal case initiated against four Jehovah’s Witnesses from Anadyr

SOVA – One of the believers, Sergei Romanov, is in a pre-trial detention center in the Volgograd region.

In the second half of June 2023, it became known that on May 5, 2023, the FSB for the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug opened a criminal case under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (organizing the activities of an extremist organization) in relation to Jehovah’s Witnesses Sergei Romanov, Alexei Volkov, Yuri Yumashev and Alexander Loshkarev.Romanov was detained on June 1 in Zhirnovsk, Volgograd Region, on June 4, the Zhirnovsky District Court sent him under arrest, he is in a local pre-trial detention center.

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23.06.2023 – Once again, more than six years in prison for faith. In the Town of Tynda, the retrial of the case of four of Jehovah’s Witnesses ended with another harsh sentence

JW – On June 23, 2023, the Tyndinskiy District Court of the Amur Region again sentenced four of Jehovah’s Witnesses to long prison terms: Vladimir Bukin, Valeriy Slashchev, and Sergey Yuferov were given six years and four months, and Mikhail Burkov was given six years and two months. They were taken into custody in the courtroom.

Six months earlier, the appellate court overturned the decision of the first instance court due to significant violations of the Criminal Procedural Code of the Russian Federation. The believers were then released from the pre-trial detention center, where they had each spent 64 days. As a result of the second consideration of the case, Judge Valentina Brykova merely reduced by two months the terms imposed on Bukin, Slashchev and Yuferov. The verdict has not yet entered into force, and the believers have the right to appeal it.

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21.06.2023 – Dmitriy Terebilov imprisoned for his faith faces extension of his sentence for talking about God with a cellmate. 

JW – On April 20, 2023, Dmitriy Terebilov, who has already served a year and a half of his term in a penal colony for his faith, became a defendant in a new criminal case. The reason it was initiated was simply that he answered questions from a cellmate about the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Terebilov now faces a more than twofold increase of his prison term from 3 to 8 years.

Since the end of May 2023, he has been in Detention Center No.1 in Kostroma.

Interestingly, Dmitriy himself learned about the Bible when previously serving a prison term. Immediately he changed for the better and the administration of the penal colony was so impressed that they themselves petitioned for his parole. However, for the same Christian beliefs, in September 2021, Dmitriy was sent to a strict regime colony.

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21.06.2023 – Russia, Anti-cultists ask authorities to prohibit the Hindu Holi Festival of colors

Bitter Winter – In any other country in the world, asking to prohibit the peaceful Hindu Holi Festival of Colors would look like a bizarre request. In Russia, it comes from the two main anti-cult websites, operated by Alexander Dvorkin and Alexander Novopashin, respectively President and Vice President of the national anti-cult umbrella organization RATsIRS, which until March 2023 was affiliated with the European anti-cult federation FECRIS.

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21.06.2023 – Jehovah’s Witness Danil Suvorov sentenced to six years in prison

SOVA – The court in Sochi found the believer guilty under Parts 1.1 and 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code.

On June 20, 2023, the Central District Court of Sochi sentenced Jehovah’s Witness Danil Suvorov, who was charged with ch. 1.1 and 2 Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (involvement in the activities of an extremist organization, participation in its activities). He was sentenced to six years in a penal colony and a year and a half of restriction of freedom after his release. The public prosecutor asked the court to appoint the believer eight years in a penal colony.

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20.06.2023 – Two of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Taganrog sentenced to real and suspended terms, one of them — a second time

JW – On June 20, 2023, Georgiy Serebryanikov, judge of the Taganrog City Court, sentenced Aleksandr Skvortsov, formerly one of the defendants in the “Case of the 16,” to 7 years in a penal colony for his faith. Another defendant, Valeriy Tibiy, received a 6-year of suspended sentence and was released in the courtroom.

The prosecutor requested long terms for both believers: 6.5 years for Tibiy and 8.5 years for Skvortsov in a penal colony.

This is the second time Aleksandr Skvortsov has become a prisoner of conscience because of his religious beliefs. Back in August 2011, the believer faced criminal prosecution on charges of extremism and his house was searched. As a result, in November 2015, Skvortsov was given a 5.5-year suspended sentence. At that time, 15 other believers received suspended sentences and fines; they were convicted for not stopping to meet for worship after the local legal entity had been banned.

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20.06.2023 – The sentence against Konstantin Sannikov entered into force after his appeal in the Supreme Court of Tatarstan — 6.5 years in a Penal Colony

JW – On June 6, 2023, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Tatarstan upheld the verdict against Konstantin Sannikov, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Kazan. For practicing his religion, he received 6.5 years in a penal colony.

On February 15, 2023, the Sovetskiy District Court of Kazan considered Sannikov’s participation in peaceful religious meetings, where believers discussed the Bible, as extremism. The defense appealed this decision. In its opinion, during the hearings in the court of first instance, it became obvious that the testimony of witnesses for the prosecution disagreed with the facts, and that there were no signs of extremism in the actions of the believer. Sannikov still maintains his innocence and can appeal the court’s decision through the cassation proceedings.

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20.06.2023 – Muslim prayer house in Kotelniki resumed work

SOVA – On June 20, 2023, it became known that the Muslim prayer house in Kotelniki near Moscow, closed after complaints from local residents, resumed work.

According to the head of the National Association of Lawyers Ruslan Nagiyev, the community has eliminated the identified violations.

The prayer house administrator, Rinat Burkhanov, said that Mufti Ravil Gainutdin, the chairman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia, Rushan Abbyasov, the Mufti of the Moscow Region, and the administration of Kotelnikov, helped resolve the issue of resuming the work of the prayer house.

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