For Immediate Release
June 25, 2010
Women arrested while preaching near Moscow
Two are held in jail for weeks on false charges of burglary
LOBNYA, Russia—More than six weeks after two female Jehovah’s Witnesses were arrested while preaching, they are still being held in jail on the false charges of burglarizing homes in the Moscow area. It has not been possible to secure their release despite intense effort put forth by their attorneys and by their religious community.
On May 7, 2010, Maria Zubko and Anna Melkonyan, Jehovah’s Witnesses who attend a local congregation, were participating in their usual public ministry. Police arrested them while they were discussing religion with the residents of an apartment building. They were accused of committing some of the robberies that had recently taken place in Lobnya. In spite of the official policy to minimize pretrial detentions, both women—who have a good reputation and no previous convictions—remain in jail based on circumstantial evidence. And despite their being able to prove that they were not involved in the crimes, their names and photos were broadcast on national television identifying them as criminals.
Attorney Dmitriy Kolobov reported: “A preliminary investigation of the criminal case indicates that the authorities in Lobnya have not approached it with the clear objective of seeking justice; instead a definite bias has prevailed. For example, the investigator doesn’t even acknowledge that the women have a solid and credible alibi. So we’re now determining whether to file a criminal case against law-enforcement officials for falsification of the evidence.”
Russia: Grigory Martynov, telephone +7 812 702 26 91
Belgium: European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, telephone +32 2 782 00 15
USA: J.R. Brown, telephone +1 718 560 5600