Friday, June 4, 2010

Russian Authorities Intensify Searches

I forgot to post this earlier...

For Immediate Release
May 28, 2010

History repeats in Russia as authorities intensify searches

CHELYABINSK, Russia—On one day, May 12, 2010, at least 11 searches were carried out at the work places and apartments of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as in buildings used for their worship. Chelyabinsk police started the raids early in the morning, awakening families, including children, and seizing books, cell phones, computers, notebooks and other personal belongings.
A mother of three was startled by aggressive knocking on her door at seven in the morning. In an attempt to find two eyewitnesses to the search they were about to conduct, the police officers visited the neighbors of the woman and yelled, “Your neighbor will be searched!” After entering her apartment, they seized her telephone to prevent her from calling anybody. She had to plead with the police officers to permit her at least to call to the management of the kindergarten to let them know that she could not take her child to school that day. Many of her belongings were confiscated. She is apprehensive that the actions of the police had a negative effect on the attitude of her neighbors toward her.

The same day the police entered a building in Chelyabinsk that is used for religious worship, including religious worship by a deaf congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. On finding nothing illegal, the police seized the video equipment used by the deaf congregation during their religious worship. This deprived the deaf community of the opportunity to hold their usual Christian meetings. This is not the first time the rights of the deaf Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Chelyabinsk were violated. In 2002 they had to file an application with the European Court of Human Rights with regard to the disruption of their meetings, the application was granted, and ultimately the rights of the deaf Witnesses were upheld.

The unlawful searches, seizures, and raids of recent weeks are unpleasant reminders for many Jehovah’s Witnesses of what took place in 1951 when in the morning darkness KGB officers carried out mass deportation raids among Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Lawyer Viktor Zhenkov states the following: “We are determined to protest the direction given to authorize the searches. And our legal team is working to reverse the decision of the Rostov Regional Court, which triggered the criminal prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout Russia. The representatives of the prosecutor’s office had affirmed that this decision would affect exclusively the Taganrog community. What does it then have to do with Chelyabinsk and other cities where the police squads have invaded the homes of believers early in the morning, scare the young and the old, seize everything that even remotely relates to religious life? At present, Jehovah’s Witnesses have reports of more than 250 incidents of raids, searches, arrests and disruption of their worship services throughout the Russian Federation.”

Apart from Russia, not a single country of the world has considered the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses as extremist.