For Immediate Release
April 17, 2006
Moscow Police Break Up Religious Service of Jehovah’s Witnesses
On the evening of April 12, 2006, the Lyublino Police Department of Moscow disrupted a religious meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses.The annual observance of the Memorial of Christ’s Death was in progress in a rented hall where some 200 persons were in attendance. Fourteen of those present were forcibly detained. The rest were ordered to leave the premises.
Of the 23 different locations in Moscow used by some 17,000 of Jehovah’s Witnesses to commemorate the death of Christ, the Lyublino district was the only place where the observance was disrupted by police intervention. Similar services were held throughout Russia without interference.
While the service was in progress, the chief of the Lyublino Police Department, Yevgeniy Kulikov, went on the stage and ordered the audience to disperse. Several male members of the audience were detained. Their passports were taken. Armed officers of the Special Police Forces (OMON) led the men out of the building and loaded them into police vehicles. They were taken to the Lyublino police station where they were interrogated for up to four hours before being released at 1:30 a.m. Police refused to provide them with written reasons for their detention.
“It’s a shocking incident,” said Vasiliy Kalin, Chairman of the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia: “I remember Soviet times, when Jehovah’s Witnesses were repressed by the atheist State. This action by the police and security agencies was reminiscent of that era.”
The commemoration of the death of Christ, also known as the Lord’s Evening Meal, is the most important religious observance for Jehovah’s Witnesses. In 2005, the total number who attended the services in Russia was 267,434, and worldwide it was 16,390,116.
Contact: J. R. Brown, telephone: (718) 560-5600