Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Criminal Prosecution for Faith - A New Reality in Russia

this is totally outrageous...

“My wife and I were shocked to learn that hidden video surveillance has been set up in our apartment, telephones have been tapped and we are being followed.”

For Immediate Release
September 14, 2010

YOSHKAR-OLA, Russia—“My wife and I were shocked to learn that hidden video surveillance has been set up in our apartment, telephones have been tapped, and we are being followed,” says Maksim Kalinin, who was named as a suspect in a criminal case initiated against Jehovah’s Witnesses in the area. He was being investigated under Article 282 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code, for “inciting hatred or enmity.”

Seven homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses were searched in the republic of Mariy El on August 10, 2010. Some of the searches lasted until 4:00 a.m. The home of Mr. Kalinin was among those searched. The FSB and the Department for Fighting Extremism obtained warrants in early 2010 authorizing them to break into Mr. Kalinin’s apartment and install secret surveillance equipment for 180 days, to monitor his postal and electronic mail, and to tap his telephone. The telephones of eight other Witness ministers were also tapped during this period. The alleged evidence obtained by these means was used to initiate the criminal case against Mr. Kalinin. Criminal charges against other Witnesses are likely to follow.

Earlier that same day, approximately 30 officers from the police, FSB, and Special Police Forces (OMON) raided a religious meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The police stopped the meeting, searched all 90 men, women, and children in attendance, and seized personal items, including telephones. No one was allowed to leave the building until late in the evening. Children were questioned outside the presence of their parents.

A female Witness in attendance said: “During the questioning, the police officers told me that I should just thank them for not making me undress completely.” Attorney Victor Shipilov commented: “Similar raids have already been evaluated by the European Court of Human Rights. In the Kuznetsov and Others v. Russia decision, the ECHR declared such actions by law-enforcement authorities to be unlawful. We will lodge a complaint against the law-enforcement authorities for their actions in this case.”

“The rough treatment by law-enforcement authorities and the resulting negative image of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the local press indicate bias toward people of another faith and demonstrate the intent of law-enforcement agencies to demean the dignity of Witnesses,” said Sergey Tarasov, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Instead of setting an example of mutual respect for people of another faith, such actions by law-enforcement authorities incite others to religious intolerance.”