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EUROPE: FECRIS et ses associations membres: la diffamation est dans leur ADN

FECRIS et ses associations membres: la diffamation est dans leur ADN

Affaires de diffamation condamnées par des tribunaux européens en Autriche, en France, en Allemagne et en Espagne

Par Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF)

HRWF (08.07.2021) – CAP-LC (Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience), ONG dotée du statut consultatif spécial auprès de l’ECOSOC (Conseil Economique et Social) des Nations Unies, a déposé une déclaration écrite à la 47e session du Conseil des Droits de l’Homme des Nations Unies, publiée le 21 juin 2021, qui dénonce la politique de diffamation, d’incitation à la stigmatisation et à la haine de la FECRIS (Fédération Européenne des Centres de Recherche et d’Information sur le Sectarisme) et de ses associations membres envers certains groupes religieux et convictionnels.

Cette organisation basée en France et principalement financée par les pouvoirs publics français (plus de 90% de son budget) a été créée à Paris le 30 juin 1994 à la demande de l’association française anti-sectes UNADFI.

Au lieu de publier des informations objectives sur les groupes religieux et de conviction qu’elle qualifie péjorativement de « sectes », la FECRIS et les organisations affiliées ont l’habitude de diffuser des informations déformées ou fausses et de faire de la diffamation. Cependant, elle conserve son statut ECOSOC depuis 2005 malgré le fait que les tribunaux de certains pays de l’Union Européenne aient condamné plusieurs de ses déclarations désobligeantes. Voir ci-après une liste non exhaustive d’affaires qui ont été portées devant les tribunaux dans des langues accessibles à l’auteur, mais ce n’est que la partie émergée de l’iceberg de leurs déclarations diffamatoires qui n’ont jamais été poursuivies en justice.

 

Autriche

Sur le banc des accusés en 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004 et 2005 : Ancien vice-président de la FECRIS

F.G., troisième président de la FECRIS (2005-2009) et membre du conseil d’administration de GSK (Gesellschaft gegen Sekten und Kultgefahren), une organisation autrichienne affiliée à la FECRIS, a été condamné à plusieurs reprises pour diffamation à l’encontre de l’Église chrétienne de Brunstad (connue en Autriche sous le nom d’« Église norvégienne » ou des « Amis de Smith ») en 1996, 1997, 1998 (deux fois), 2000 (deux fois), 2004 et 2005. Ce récidiviste impénitent a été condamné à plusieurs reprises à payer des amendes, à s’abstenir d’attaquer cette Église, à retirer les accusations diffamatoires du site Internet de GSK et aussi à publier les décisions de justice en sa défaveur.

F.G., ingénieur à la retraite, est un catholique convaincu. Il n’était pas d’accord que sa fille W.G. rejoigne les Amis de Smith et se marie avec l’un de ses membres. Le 27 mai 1999, elle a enregistré un témoignage chez un notaire dans lequel elle a démenti les allégations de son père contre ce mouvement.

Source : Freedom of Religion or Belief Anti-Sect Movements and State Neutrality, A Case Study : FECRIS, pp 324-327 et Kurzinformation über die Gerichtsprozesse der Norweger Bewegung.

 

France

Sur le banc des accusés en 1997 : Président de l’ADFI Nord, affiliée à la FECRIS

Le 15 janvier 1997, la Cour d’appel de Douai a condamné la présidente de l’ADFI Nord pour diffamation envers l’Association des Témoins de Jéhovah de France. Elle a été condamnée à payer la somme symbolique de 1 FF.  (Cour d’Appel de Douai, 4e Chambre – Dossier Nr 96/02832 – Arrêt 15.01.1997).

Sur le banc des accusés en 2001 : Président de l’UNADFI, affiliée à la FECRIS

Dans une affaire de diffamation à l’encontre d’un membre de l’Eglise de Scientologie, la Présidente de l’UNADFI a été condamnée à payer une amende de 762,24 EUR et, en plus, de 1524,49 EUR à la victime en réparation du préjudice moral. (Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, 17e Chambre – Dossier Nr 0014523016 – Jugement 20.11.2001)

Le 5 février 2003, la Cour d’appel de Paris a confirmé ce jugement.  (Cour d’appel de Paris, 11e chambre/Section A – Dossier Nr 01/03757 – Arrêt 05.02.2003)

Sur le banc des accusés en 2002 : Vice-président du GEMPPI, affilié à la FECRIS

Le 29 mars 2002, le Tribunal de Grande Instance de Marseille (TGI) a jugé diffamatoires les propos concernant l’association des Témoins de Jéhovah tenus par J.C. lors d’une conférence qu’il a tenue à Marseille. Il a accusé l’association des Témoins de Jéhovah d’escroquerie, d’avoir employé illégalement du personnel non déclaré pendant des années et d’avoir utilisé une traduction farfelue de la Bible. Ces déclarations ont été reproduites dans La Provence du 28 janvier 2001 et n’ont pas été démenties par J.C.

Le tribunal a déclaré J.C. coupable du délit de diffamation envers l’association des Témoins de Jéhovah pour la déclaration suivante : « Il existe une fraude qui dure depuis des années concernant l’emploi de personnes non déclarées à l’URSSAF. »

Il a été condamné à payer une amende de 450 EUR à titre de sanction, la somme symbolique de 1 EUR à l’association et le montant de 600 EUR en vertu de l’article 475 (1) du Code de procédure pénale.

Il est à noter que J.C. a été vice-président du GEMPPI, président de l’ADFI et membre du conseil d’orientation de la MIVILUDES. Il est professeur à l’Institut français de civilisation musulmane à Lyon. Il a également été le responsable régional de l’Institut de formation des professeurs de religion de Dijon.

(Tribunal de Grande Instance de Marseille, 8e chambre – Dossier Nr 2972/02 – Jugement correctionnel 29.03.2002)

Sur le banc des accusés en 2007 : ancien député et président de l’UNADFI, affiliée à la FECRIS

Le 18 juillet 2007, la Cour d’appel de Rouen a condamné C.P., accusé de diffamation répétée dans les médias, à verser 1500 EUR (+ 800 EUR pour l’application de l’article 475-1 du Code de procédure pénale) à l’association centrale des Témoins de Jéhovah en France et 750 EUR (+ 300 EUR pour l’application de l’article 475-1 du Code de procédure pénale) à chacune des sept associations locales des Témoins de Jéhovah en réparation financière du préjudice moral. (Cour d’appel de Rouen, chambre correctionnelle – Dossier Nr 07/00341 – Arrêt 18.07.2007)

Sur le banc des accusés en 2007 : président de l’UNADFI, affiliée à la FECRIS

Le 3 avril 2007, la Cour de cassation a jugé diffamatoires les propos tenus par C.P., ancienne députée et présidente de l’UNADFI, et par A.F., membre de la MILS (prédécesseur de la MIVILUDES) dans leur ouvrage « Sectes, démocratie et mondialisation » publié en 2002. Dans cet ouvrage, le mouvement philosophique AMORC (Ordre rosicrucien) était accusé, entre autres, de poursuivre des intérêts personnels, de soutenir des théories racistes et de menacer les libertés, d’être structuré comme une mafia et de fonctionner comme une organisation criminelle.

Dans son arrêt, la Cour de cassation a cassé et annulé la décision de la Cour d’appel de Paris du 22 mars 2006. L’affaire a été renvoyée devant la Cour d’appel, mais les auteurs du livre ont conclu un accord avec l’AMORC. Le 7 mai 2008, ils ont signé une déclaration par laquelle ils reconnaissent que leurs propos sur l’AMORC avaient été diffamatoires comme l’avait jugé la Cour de cassation. Ils ont conclu en disant qu’à la lumière de nouvelles informations recueillies depuis la publication de leur livre, ils avaient convenu que l’AMORC n’était pas une organisation sectaire. (Cour de Cassation, chambre civile 1 – Pourvoi Nr 06-15226 – Décision de la Cour : 03.04.2007)

Sur le banc des accusés en 2015 et 2017 : L’UNADFI, affiliée à la FECRIS

En novembre 2015, l’UNADFI a été condamnée par la Cour d’appel de Paris pour « abus de procédure judiciaire », pour avoir persisté à se porter partie civile de mauvaise foi contre l’Église de Scientologie et deux particuliers. L’UNADFI a dû verser 3.000 EUR à chacune des parties et 4.000 EUR sur la base de l’article 700 du Code de procédure pénale. (Cour d’appel de Paris, Pôle 2, Chambre 2, – Dossier Nr 14/09557 – Arrêt 20.11.2015)

Cette condamnation a été confirmée par la Cour de cassation le 12 janvier 2017. (Cour de Cassation, 2e chambre civile – Dossier Nr 10019 F – Arrêt 12.01.2017)

 

Allemagne

Sur le banc des accusés en 2001 : AGPF/ SEKTEN-INFO ESSEN, affiliée à la FECRIS

Dans un jugement définitif rendu le 19 décembre 2001 par le tribunal d’État de Munich, il a été ordonné à Mme H-M C., fondatrice de Sect-info Essen, de cesser de répéter ou de diffuser une série de contre-vérités sur Takar Singh (un groupe religieux oriental), faute de quoi elle serait condamnée à une amende pouvant atteindre 500 000 DM et, à défaut de paiement, à une peine de prison pouvant aller jusqu’à 6 mois. Il s’agissait d’allégations d’activités criminelles, de torture d’enfants ou de viol publiées dans un livre sur ledit groupe dont la vente a également été interdite. Le titre était « Les nouveaux prophètes » (en allemand : Die Neuen Heilsbringer : Auswege oder Wege ins Aus ?) (Munich I Landgericht/ Tribunal du Land, chambre civile 9 – Affaire Nr. Az : 908736/99 – Entscheidung/ Décision de la Cour : 19.01.2001)

Source : Liberté de religion ou de croyance, mouvements anti-sectes et neutralité de l’État, une étude de cas : FECRIS, pp 191-192

Sur le banc des accusés en 2020 : FECRIS

Le 27 novembre 2020, le tribunal de district de Hambourg a condamné la FECRIS pour avoir diffamé l’association centrale des Témoins de Jéhovah dans des déclarations publiques faites dans le cadre de ses conférences de 2009 à 2017 et publiées ultérieurement sur son site internet. Voir Témoins de Jéhovah en Allemagne contre FECRIS (Dossier réf. 324 O 434/18) au sujet d’une liste de 32 déclarations prétendument diffamatoires : 17 ont été entièrement justifiées et une a été partiellement justifiée par la Cour.

Comme les Témoins de Jéhovah avaient affirmé que 32 déclarations de la FECRIS étaient diffamatoires, et que le tribunal en a jugé 17 comme telles, une partiellement diffamatoire et 14 non diffamatoires, la FECRIS a déclaré avoir « gagné » le procès sur 14 points. Tout en gardant le silence sur les 17 autres points déclarés diffamatoires par le tribunal, la FECRIS a donné la fausse impression, dans un communiqué de presse, que le tribunal de Hambourg avait validé comme vraies les 14 déclarations qu’il avait considérées comme non diffamatoires. Ce communiqué de presse tardif (30 mai 2021) n’était qu’une réaction à un rapport sur la condamnation de la FECRIS publié par Bitter Winter. (Hamburg Landgericht / tribunal du Land – Dossier Ref. 324 O 434/18 – Entscheidung / Décision du tribunal : 27.11.2020)

Il y a davantage d’informations sur cette affaire en Allemagne dans la base de données de nouvelles de HRWF.

 

Espagne

Sur le banc des accusés en 1999 (Cour européenne) : Pro Juventud, affiliée à la FECRIS

Pro Juventud, désormais AIS – Pro Juventud, organisation espagnole affiliée à la FECRIS, a été jugée par la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme en 1999 dans l’affaire Ribera Blume et autres contre l’Espagne pour avoir porté une « responsabilité directe et immédiate » dans une affaire d’enlèvement, d’emprisonnement et de tentative de déprogrammation de membres d’un groupe religieux dans des conditions de privation illégale de liberté et de détention. Le changement forcé de religion est interdit par le droit international. (Cour européenne des droits de l’Homme – Dossier 37680/97 – Décision de la Cour : 14.10.1999)

 

Conclusions

Pendant plus de 25 ans, la FECRIS et ses organisations membres ont diffusé des déclarations diffamatoires sur des groupes religieux et de conviction sous forme imprimée, dans les médias et lors d’auditions parlementaires. Avant de rejoindre la FECRIS, un certain nombre d’associations et leurs dirigeants avaient déjà été condamnés dans des affaires de diffamation par des tribunaux en Suède, en Suisse et dans d’autres pays (Liberté de religion ou de croyance, mouvements anti-sectes et neutralité de l’État, une étude de cas : FECRIS, page 192)

Les exemples de décisions de justice énumérés dans cet article montrent qu’il est dans leur ADN de stigmatiser les groupes religieux ou convictionnels que leurs membres fondateurs et les membres de leur conseil d’administration n’aiment pas pour des raisons personnelles ou par expérience personnelle. Une telle obstination à diffamer et stigmatiser dans les médias un certain nombre de groupes ne suivant pas la ligne traditionnelle a eu un impact négatif et parfois dramatique sur la vie de ceux qui ont librement choisi de suivre leurs enseignements, bien que cela fasse partie de leur droit à la liberté de conscience, de pensée et de croyance.

Si des déclarations diffamatoires similaires visaient des organisations athées ou la foi des juifs ou des musulmans avec la même virulence, cela déclencherait à juste titre un tollé dans la classe politique et les médias. Les adeptes des groupes religieux non traditionnels veulent simplement jouir du même droit à la liberté de conscience, de pensée et de croyance.

La FECRIS et ses organisations membres n’ont pas seulement été condamnées par les tribunaux. Leurs pratiques contraires à l’éthique ont été condamnées à plusieurs reprises à l’OSCE (Organisation pour la Sécurité et la Coopération en Europe) et en 2020 par l’USCIRF (Commission américaine sur la liberté religieuse internationale).

Il est temps que les pouvoirs publics cessent de financer la FECRIS et ses organisations membres, qu’ils les tiennent à distance et qu’ils s’appuient sur des sources et des experts universitaires crédibles.

urther reading about FORB in EU on HRWF website





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INDIA: Open Doors publishes new report on situation of religious minorities

INDIA: Destructive Lies: Open Doors publishes new LSE report on situation of religious minorities

 

Open Doors (07.01.2021) – Christians across India are living in constant fear as a systematic campaign of violent harassment, rape, and murder is waged against them. This is the finding of a shocking new report from the London School of Economics, commissioned by the Christian NGO Open Doors.

 

Destructive Lies – Disinformation, speech that incites violence and discrimination against religious minorities in Indiadescribes the extreme persecution Christians and Muslims are facing at the hands of violent vigilante mobs of Hindu nationalists. An executive summary is available here.

 

According to the report, the attacks and persecution are ignored, and even condoned by state actors – including state and regional government, police, and media – to keep in favour with India’s powerful Hindutva organisations.

 

A series of disturbing case studies are laid out in the report, including Sunita Verma**, who gave birth to a still-born baby after a Hindutva mob violently kicked her in the stomach, Ravi, a local labourer, entrapped and beaten by a mob and left to die in a cell by police, and the details of a mass attack on a Muslim village by a 6,000 strong mob, committing arson and driving many from their homes permanently.

 

According to one of the report’s authors, who have asked not to be named: “The extent to which … state actors are complicit in the violence is shocking; it was there even at the ground level. The bureaucrats, the police, the lower court judges, all of them are …openly colluding to harass these minorities. And politicians, top religious leaders and powerful media owners [are giving] very overt signals that this [behaviour] is desirable.”

 

During the current Covid-19 crisis, for example, Christians and Muslims have been targeted in concerted campaigns of misinformation, including claims that they are deliberately trying to spread the virus and infect Hindus through their acts of worship.

 

The research was conducted in February and March 2021 by an LSE research team based in India. The data was collected in localities where there had been reported incidents of anti-Christian or anti-Muslim violence. Further findings of the report include how attacks are filmed and posted on social media, how police and local legal infrastructures refuse to acknowledge any of the crimes committed or press charges and how state-level anti-conversion laws are encouraging violence and persecution.

 

The report makes a series of urgent recommendations, including an international fact-finding commission to record levels of violence and human rights violations against religious minorities. Meanwhile social media corporations are urged to take a series of immediate measures, including more moderators to address local issues of discrimination, harassment, and violence and immediate suspension of accounts spreading such materials.

 

** Names have been altered for safety reasons.

Picture: AsiaNews





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IRAN: News about the persecution of Baha’is in Iran in May

News about Baha’is in Iran in May

HRWF Digest

 

Sentences confirmed for 4 Baha’is from Varamin

 

Hrana / Sens Daily (30.05.2021) – https://cutt.ly/fnxe6fw – The Review Court for Tehran Province had confirmed the 3-year sentences of Mrs. Mona Mehraabi, Elhaam Karam-Pisheh, Afsaaneh Yaadgaar-Ardestaani and Mr.Ehsaan-Allah Yaadgaar-Ardestaani. They were charged with membership in an illegal organization with the aim of disrupting national security. The Judge of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran who handed down the 3-year sentences, Judge Muhammad-Reza Amouzad, said that the accused identified impoverished people and children who were abused or deprived of schooling, and gave them education.

 

Before the trial by Judge Muhammad-Reza Amouzad, in September or October 2018, they had been sentenced by a revolutionary court in Tehran in a secret trial without a hearing or defence, to five years in prison. Two other Baha’is were sentenced to five years in the secret trial of 2018: Safa Forqani-Araani and Mehrdaad Forqani-Araani.

 

Mrs. Elhaam Karam-Pisheh and Mona Mehraabi were arrested on February 16, 2015, in a raid on a meeting in Tehran where six Baha’is were present. All were separately interrogated in the house, and the two women were arrested in accordance with a warrant and taken away in a car from the Ministry of Intelligence. During the search, which lasted five hours, all the books, pictures and religious symbols of those present, as well as computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones, were seized. Mr. Ehsaan Yaadgaar was arrested in a neighbouring home at the same time, and again religious materials were seized. Mrs. Safa Forqani-Araani was arrested in a raid on her home [apparently in Tehran] on February 17, 2015, and her father Mehrdaad was arrested at his home in Varamin an hour later.

 

 

Six Baha’is sentenced in Borazjan: 10 years in prison

 

Hrana/ Sens Daily (26.05.2021) – https://cutt.ly/Knxr3Gi – A Revolutionary Court in Borazjan, the chief city of Dashtestan county, Bushehr Province, has sentenced Borhan Ismaa`ili, Maryam Bashir, Faraanak Shaykhi, Haayedeh Raam, Minu Bashir and Darna Ismaa`ili.

 

Mr. Borhan Ismaa`ili was sentenced to eleven years on the charge of “propaganda against the regime by spreading the beliefs of the Baha’i sect and acting against security by disseminating Baha’i ideas.” The five women were sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison on the charge of “Supportion propaganda against the regime by spreading the beliefs of the Baha’i sect.

 

The court findings cited the accused’s involvement with child education and membership of the counter-revolutionary web site, Facebook. If the Review Court upholds these sentences, the accused will serve ten years in prison.

 

 

Tehran review court confirms sentences of 3 years and 7 months

 

Hrana/ Sens Daily (25.05.2021) – https://cutt.ly/2nxtWNF – Mrs. Marvash `Adaalati `Ali-Abaadi, Mrs. Sepideh Keshaavarz and Mr. Farid Ismaa`ili have been sentenced to three years and seven months in prison by the Review Court for Tehran Province. They were charged with “collusion intended to undermine national security by conducting Baha’i activities.” The Revolutionary Court, under Judge Muhammad-Reza Amouzad, had also given them concurrent sentences of eight months in prison for “promoting the Baha’i Faith.” The Review Court has not confirmed those sentences, but it makes no practical difference.

 

 

Six more detainees bailed in Baharestan 

 

Hrana / Sens Daily (24.05.2021) – https://cutt.ly/tnxtK0Y – Five more of the Baha’i women recently arrested in, or in relation to, the city of Baharestan in Isfahan Province were bailed on May 22. They are Noushin Hemmat, Shouraangiz Behaamin, Saara Shakib, Azita Rezvaani and Sho`lah Ashuri. Bail was set at 200 million tumans (39,000 euros ; $US 47,000). Previously, Saanaaz Raasteh and Firouzeh Rastinejaad were bailed on May 20; Ruya Azaadkhush and Nasreen Khaademi were bailed on May 18, and Maryam Khursandi on May 17. All were released from Dawlatabad prison in Isfahan city.

 

According to a separate HRANA report, Mozhgaan Pourshafi` was bailed on May 23. The arrests and home raids across Baharestan began on April 25.

 

 

Eight Baha’is return to prison in Bandar Abbas

 

Hrana / Sens Daily (18.05.2021) – https://cutt.ly/7nxusYm – In Bandar Abbas, eight Baha’i prisoners who were granted furlough on April 14 returned to prison on April 24. Previous reports did not indicate how long the furlough would be, but ten days is quite normal. The prisoners are Arash Raasekhi, Omid Afaaqi, Mehrollah Afshaar, Nasim Qanawaateyaan, Adib Haqq-pazhuh, Farhaad Amri, Maaraal Raasti and Mahnaaz Jaan-Nethaar. They began their one and two-year sentences in late February and early April, and the report does not indicate why they would be granted furlough so soon.

Ten more news/ incidents are documented on this website. Click here





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RUSSIA: Freedom of religion: Special bimonthly FORB (01-15.05.2021)

14.05.2021 – How will re-training of foreign-trained clergy be implemented?

From October, when new Religion Law amendments come into force, all clergy, religious teachers and missionaries working for registered religious organisations who have trained abroad will need to undertake a course in “state-confessional relations in the Russian Federation”. They will then need to be re-certified by a centralised religious organisation before being permitted to begin work for the first time. How the amendments will be applied in practice “is a big question”, commented Stanislav Kulov of the Slavic Centre for Law and Justice.

Continue reading…

14.05.21 – Freedom of conscience, thought and religion

On April 8, Marina Matiushenko, ‘ a judge of peace’, issued a warning to the «LOVE OF CHRIST» Church of Evangelical Pentecostal Christians under Art. 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Offences (Illegal Missionary Activity) for publications on a social network describing the activities of the organization.

The administrative proceedings under RF CoAO article 5.26 were also started against the «Bread of Life» Church of Evangelical Christians, Kerch City.

In April, the CHRG registered 3 new ad- ministrative proceedings in Crimea under Art. 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation, including 2 — regarding the Alushta Muslim community and its imam Yusuf Ashyrov based on the reports drawn up after the search in the mosque on March 30, 2021. The imam was accused of conducting Friday prayers, and the community was accused of having religious literature in the mosque.

Continue reading…

14.05.21 – Vladivostok Appeal Court upholds the guilty verdict against 77-year-old Jehovah’s Witness Vladimir Filippov

Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2021/05/141410.html

On May 14, 2021, the Primorye Territory Court in Vladivostok upheld the sentence to Vladimir Filippov for his faith. The court considered the peaceful confession of the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be the activity of a banned legal entity. However, the court overturned the order to destroy material evidence.

Continue reading…

14.05.21 – Six accused and new articles. Court hearings on second case against Jehovah’s Witnesses begin in Karpinsk

Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2021/05/140833.html

On April 29, 2021, the Karpinsky City Court received a second case against Alexander Pryanikov, Daria and Venus Dulov. This time, three more defendants appear in the case: Anastasia Pryanikova, Svetlana Zalyaeva and her husband Ruslan, who is not a Jehovah’s Witness. Judge Vera Dranitsina will consider the case.

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13.05.21 – An appeal in Birobidzhan toughens the sentence against Yuliya Kaganovich

Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2021/05/131516.html

On May 13, 2021, the Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region toughened the verdict handed down to Yuliya Kaganovich by the court of first instance for participating in the activities of a banned organization. Judges replaced the previously appointed monetary fine for 2.5 years of imprisonment with a suspended sentence of 1 year.

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13.05.21 – An appeal in Birobidzhan upheld the conditional sentence of 56-Year-Old believer Konstantin Guzev

Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2021/05/131312.html

On May 13, 2021, the Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region upheld the sentence to Konstantin Guzev from Birobidzhan – 2.5 years of suspended imprisonment with restriction of liberty for 1 year.

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13.05.21 – Jehovah’s Witness woman’s legal appeal proves costly

Link to full text in Russian: https://credo.press/237168/

A court in the Jewish autonomous oblast made the sentence more severe for the Jehovah’s Witness Svetlana Monis, who had previously been found guilty of extremism because of her faith in Jehovah. She was given a punishment in the form of a suspended sentence of 2.5 years with a probation of two years, a correspondent for the portal Credo.Press reports, citing a source within the Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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11.05.21 – Attempts to eliminate Siberia’s autonomous Jewish region

Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin has proposed to unite it with the Khabarovsk region. It is a small and poor region (220,000 inhabitants), but Jews have taken refuge in this area since the tsar’s pogroms to escape persecution.

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07.05.21 – Russian Hindus prohibited from celebrating Maha Shivratri Festival

A woman who organized the celebration in Udmurtia was charged for “illegal missionary activity.”

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06.05.21 – Konstantin Bazhenov, convicted for his faith, released from the colony, but detained for deportation

Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2021/05/2.html

On 5 May 2021, 45-year-old Konstantin Bazhenov was released on parole from the penal colony in Dimitrovgrad but was sent to the temporary detention center for foreign citizens, as his Russian citizenship was revoked due to criminal prosecution. The believer will be deported to the territory of Ukraine.

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04.05.21 – New searches in Kuzbass: Two believers from Kaltan Town were detained

Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2021/05/1.html

On the morning of May 2, 2021, searches were carried out in the small town of Kaltan, Kemerovo Region. Two men, 49-year-old Vitaliy Syrykh and 53-year-old Aleksandr Tsikunov, were detained and sent to a temporary detention center.

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FINLAND: Päivi Räsänen case : heated debates in media and churches

Päivi Räsänen case in Finland leads to heated freedom of speech debate both in media and churches

“Teachings based on the Bible must be free to discuss in public”, says the Finnish Evangelical Alliance.

By Joel Forster

 

Evangelical Focus (05.05.2021) – https://bit.ly/3nYyIeb – Christians in Finland are in the midst of a “huge discussion” about the Päivi Räsänen case, sources in the country have told Evangelical Focus. 

 

 

Member of the Finnish Parliament for the Christian Democratic Party, Päivi Räsänen. / Photo: Facebook Päivi Räsänen.

 

Last week, the member of the national parliament and former government minister was formally charged with hate speech against homosexuals for her opinions voiced on three platforms. Räsänen will be tried for quoting the Bible on homosexuality on social media in 2019, for authoring a booklet about marriage published in 2004, and for her views in a talk show about Christian faith and homosexuality.

 

The two-year pre-trial investigations of the Finnish General Prosecutor against Räsänen, a medical doctor with strong Christian convictions, are seen by theologically conservative Christians in Finland as a clear study case of the erosion of the ability of citizens to express their deeply held beliefs.

 

Evangelical Alliance: Faith is not competence of the judiciary

 

One of the Christian organisations to react to the news has been the Finnish Evangelical Alliance (Suomen Evankelinen Allianssi, SEA), which took a stand on 4 May, days after it was known that Räsänen could face a prison sentence of up to two years. “Teachings based on the Bible must be free to discuss in public”, it said in a statement.

 

“The definition of what is sin in religious terms or the resolution of theological differences is not an issue for the judiciary to assess”, but a matter concerning “the scope of religious freedom”, the SEA wrote. “It is the task of the state and the judiciary to uphold the widest possible freedom of expression, opinion and religion”.

 

The Alliance brings together churches, organisations and denominations that identify with an evangelical worldview.

 

“The sexual ethical position represented by Räsänen and Juhana Pohjola [a Lutheran publisher also charged in one of the cases] in public is the prevailing view of Christian churches worldwide. If the presentation of this view and the treatment of the Bible interpretation concerning it were to be considered as an offense, it would have a strong restrictive effect on religious freedom”, they warned. “Churches would then be prevented from teaching their own doctrine freely, and the dissemination of the Bible could also be prohibited. This would be a gross violation of fundamental and human rights”.

 

Do Christian views clash with human dignity?

 

In her first documents, the General Prosecutor has made the case that Räsänen broke the law by inciting hatred against a minority group. But Päivi Räsänen has repeatedly said she defends the “human rights and dignity” of LGBT people, since this understanding of the value of all people is a central aspect of her Christian faith.

 

The SEA also refered to this point, underlining that “according to the Bible, God created man in His own image, male and female. This view, based on the theology of creation, provides the basis for the equal dignity and rights of all human beings”.

 

Christians in Finland could be tempted to fall into self-censorship, but this is why the SEA “urges Christians in all denominations to continue to boldly present the truth of the Bible in a loving and respectful manner”. The statement calls with an invitation to “pray” for the Christians involved in the court process “as well as for the General Prosecutor and the entire judiciary”.

 

Repercussions beyond Finland

 

Evangelical Focus learned that other Evangelical Alliances in Europe would be ready to raise awareness about this case, as they see the limitation of freedom of speech on LGBT issues as a potential threat to religious freedom in other countries.

 

Also the International Lutheran Council has expressed its concern with a case that has clear links to the difficult theological debates happening in the Finnish Lutheran Church. Two Finnish bishops have spoken to the media about the debate around Päivi Räsänen (who is herself a member of the Lutheran Church) defended her right to speak out although failed to defend her position on Bible and sexuality, sources said.

 

The case in the media

 

In the media context, the debate around the upcoming trial has also led to different approaches.

 

Helsingin Sanomat, the largest newspaper in Finland, published an editorial titled “Päivi Räsänen hurts not only homosexuals but also many Christians” on 30 April, saying the case “is not a question of an individual personal opinion, but society’s long lasting cruel position against sexual minorities”. The daily went further to state that “the most striking is not Räsänen’s thinking but the fact that just a little time ago such opinions represented the mainline view in society. A human being is on judge, although there should be the history”.

 

In contrast, other influential media people have defended every citizen to express their ideas freely. Tapani Ruokanen, a respected journalist, tweeted: “I defend freedom of speech and religion, especially if I disagree with the speaker. Quoting the Bible belongs to both freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Päivi Räsänen’s accusations take the judiciary towards the Middle Ages. Uncivilized, shameful and meaningless ineptitude”.

 

Some prominent atheists have also voiced their support for Räsänen’s right to speak, including Ivan Puopolo, Tuomas Enbuske and Jiri Keronen.

 

Several international online media outlets have echoed the informations around the Päivi Räsänen case in the last months. Evangelical Focus is following the case since the prosecutor first opened an investigation in September 2019.


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