RUSSIA: Special bimonthly FORB newsletter (01-15.08.2022)

15.08.2022 – New registers of “extremist” people and literature

Forum 18 – July legal amendments introduce a new register of people allegedly connected to “extremism”, apparently to be used in parallel with the existing Rosfinmonitoring “List of Terrorists and Extremists”. Individuals liable for inclusion are so broadly defined that it is unclear whether there may be wider implications, including for religious believers whose organisations have been banned as “extremist”, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses or Muslim Nursi readers. “Anyone could end up [on the new unified register],” says Aleksandr Verkhovsky of the SOVA Centre in Moscow.

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15.08.2022 – Savage sentences in Russia’s religious persecution and plunder in occupied Crimea

A Russian court of appeal has upheld sentences of up to 18 years against four Crimean Tatars, with the persecution of two of the men almost certainly connected with Russia’s attack on an independent religious community in occupied Alushta and plunder of their mosque. The ‘appeal hearing’ was pure farce, with the Russian prosecutor having clearly not even bothered to read the file material and making entirely false allegations about the four men.

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15.08.2022 – Case of two Jehovah’s Witnesses brought to court in Murmansk Region

Sova Center – On August 12, 2022, the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee for the Murmansk Region announced the completion of the investigation of the criminal case under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (organization of the activities of an extremist organization) in relation to two Jehovah’s Witnesses from Snezhnogorsk, the agency does not name their names. The case has been sent to court.

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15.08.2022 – Sentence to a prisoner who preached the teachings of “Tablighi Jamaat” came into force in the Altai Territory

Sova center – On April 12, 2022, the Rubtsovsky City Court delivered a sentence under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code and part 1.1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (participation in an extremist organization and involvement in its activities) to a follower of the banned religious movement Tablighi Jamaat. On August 4, 2022, the verdict was considered by the Altai Regional Court and changed. Taking into account the previous verdict, the court sentenced the accused to a sentence of five years and 20 days in prison to be served in a strict regime correctional colony.

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14.08.2022 – Searches were carried out in New Generation churches in several regions in connection with a criminal case of cooperation with an undesirable organization

Sova Center – On August 14, 2022, it became known about searches at the homes of members of the New Generation Church, which took place in several regions as part of a criminal case under Art. 284.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (carrying out 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).

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11.08.2022 – Six residents of Dzhankoy district of Crimea detained on suspicion of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir

Sova Center – On August 11, 2022, searches were carried out in Dzhankoy and other settlements of the Dzhankoy district of Crimea as part of a criminal case initiated under chch. 1, 2 art. 205.5 of the Criminal Code (organization of the activities of a terrorist organization, participation in it). Six Crimean Tatar activists – Enver Krosh, Vilen Temeryanov, Seytyag Abbozov, Murat Mustafayev, Edem Bekirov and Rinat Aliyev – were detained. On August 12, the Kyiv District Court of Simferopol placed Abbozov under house arrest, while Temeryanov, Krosh, Mustafayev, Bekirov and Aliyev were sent to pre-trial detention.

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09.08.2022 – A resident of Saratov was sentenced to a real term for participating in Tablighi Jamaat for two days

Sova Center – On August 9, 2022, the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee for the Saratov Region announced that the court found the local resident guilty under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (participation in the activities of an extremist organization) and sentenced him to imprisonment for a period of two years and restriction of freedom for a period of six months.

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08.08.2022 – Appeal in Stavropol replaced seven and a half years in prison for Konstantin Samsonov with a fine

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On August 5, 2022, the Stavropol Regional Court, chaired by Judge Andrey Shever, partially granted the appeal and commuted the sentence, replacing Konstantin Samsonov with 7.5 years in prison for a fine. The believer is expected to be released on August 8.

According to preliminary information the court also partially satisfied the prosecutor’s appeal, increasing the amount of fines for other defendants in the case—Aleksandr Akopov and Shamil Sultanov. Taking into account the period of detention in a pre-trial detention center, all three believers were fined, payable: Sultanov and Akopov—250,000 rubles each, and Samsonov—400,000 rubles.

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04.08.2022 – Court sentences 10 Hizb ut-Tahrir supporters to 11 to 18 years

On August 4, 2022, the Central District Military Court found ten supporters of the radical Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is recognized as a terrorist organization in Russia, guilty of CC. 1 and 2 Art. 205.5 of the Criminal Code (organization of the activities of a terrorist organization and participation in it).Marat Saibatalov and Alim Timkanov, who were charged under Part 1 of Art. 205.5 of the Criminal Code, sentenced to 17 and 18 years in prison respectively, both will spend the first six years in prison. Eight other defendants – Damir Abdrafikov, Ruslan Bariev, Rafis Idrisov, Farrukh Makhkamov, Shakhboz Makhmudov, Turatbek Osmonkulov, Aidar Tashbulatov, Ruslan Fomin – were charged under part 2 of the same article. The court sentenced Bariev to 14 years in prison, Abdrafikov and Fomin – 12, Tashbulatov and Makhmudov – 13, Makhkamov, Idrisov and Osmankulov – 11. All those convicted under Part 2 of Art. 205.5 of the Criminal Code will spend the first five years of imprisonment in prison.

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04.08.2022 – The prosecutor’s office seeks a ban on the activities of the Alla-Ayat religious group in the Altai Territory

Sova Center – In July 2022, it became known that on June 15, the prosecutor’s office of the Altai Territory filed a lawsuit with the Altai Regional Court to ban the activities of the religious group “Allya-Ayat” (“Elle-Ayat”) in the territory of the region.

The plaintiff believes that the methods of treatment used by the followers of the Alla-Ayat teaching – the use of special tea, the pronunciation of the “formula of life”, the appeal to the energy of the sun – “represent a potential danger to human health” and lead “to the refusal of citizens from official medical care” , and consequently, “the activity of the Alla-Ayat religious group violates the rights of citizens in the field of health care and the provision of state guarantees related to these rights . “

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04.08.2022 – Possibility of pope’s meeting with Moscow patriarch in September raised

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On 4 August 2022, a meeting was held in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican between the chairman of the Department for External Church Relations [OVTsS] of the Moscow patriarchate, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Antony, and the secretary of the Holy See for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the OVTsS reports.

During the prolonged conversation, current issues pertaining to relations of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches were discussed.

As the OVTsS remarks, Metropolitan Antony is now in Rome for an archpastoral visit regarding the administration of parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in Italy.

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03.08.2022 – Priest of Moscow church in Ukraine aided Russian aggressors

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The Konotop district prosecutor’s office sent to a court an indictment against the rector of a UPTsMP [Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate] church in Konotop district, who delivered material resources to military formations of the aggressor state; he also considers the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine to be legal.

This was reported by the Sumi oblast prosecutor’s office.

According to information of the investigation, at the time of the occupation of Konotop district, the priest collected from parishioners food stuffs, which he delivered to representatives of military formations of the aggressor country. In addition, he permitted Russian soldiers to use his personal automobile for travel around the territory of the village.

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02.08.2022 – Appeal in Nizhny Novgorod approved the conviction of Kirill Yevstigneev for his faith

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On August 1, 2022, the Nizhny Novgorod Regional Court, presided over by Judge Olga Yaroshenko, upheld the sentence handed down to one of Jehovah’s Witnesses Kirill Yevstigneev, 42—3 years’ suspended imprisonment for his belief in Jehovah God.

Addressing the court, the believer emphasized: “I am a Jehovah’s Witness and therefore I will never plan to commit extremist acts, or approve or support other people

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02.08.2022 – Government pressure on religious leaders to support Ukraine war

Forum 18 – The government has pressured religious leaders to support Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine, and prosecuted and fined religious believers and leaders who publicly oppose the war. Lutheran Bishop Dietrich Brauer and Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt left Russia in March after resisting state pressure to support the war. The FSB security service warned local religious leaders, including at least three Protestant pastors individually in one region. “Such warnings don’t take place now,” a pastor told Forum 18 in July. “Those [March warnings] were enough for everyone.”

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