For Immediate Release
September 14, 2011
Aggression towards Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia reaches unprecedented heights
Authorities’ religious intolerance and harassment reminiscent of the Soviet era
CHEBOKSARY, Russia—For the first time in Russia since the end of the Soviet Union, Russian citizens who are Jehovah’s Witnesses are now being arrested and detained without charges. In addition, illegal searches and raids of homes and places of worship used by the Witnesses continue despite international calls for Russia to put an end to religious intolerance and harassment.
On September 7, 2011, three local Jehovah’s Witnesses were arrested without charges in the Chuvash Republic. Farid Mannafov, Oleg Marchenko, and Aleksey Nikolayev were escorted by the police to an undisclosed location. Their relatives did not find out until the following day that the three were being kept in custody at a temporary detention center. They spent two days in custody. Searches were conducted in the homes of these and other Witness families. Bibles, computers, legal documents, and personal valuables were confiscated. Some searches were carried out for more than six hours.
Also on September 7, some of the religious services of Jehovah’s Witnesses were disrupted in the Chuvash Republic. In what appears to be a coordinated attack on the Witnesses there, police officers intruded into the Witnesses’ places of worship (known as Kingdom Halls) and other premises used by the Witnesses in the cities of Cheboksary, Novocheboksarsk and Kanash. In addition to disrupting the peaceful religious services being held by the Witnesses, those present were searched, forcibly taken to a police station, and fingerprinted against their will. Senior police officers took part in the raids.
Besides the illegal ban on their activities in Moscow, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the incidents in the Chuvash Republic are the most aggressive official acts against them since the formation of the Russian Federation nearly 20 years ago. Vasily Kalin, a representative of the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, commented: “It is unbelievable that Russian authorities are using Soviet-era methods to throw innocent Christians into prison without charges. These official acts of religious intolerance are without any basis and should stop immediately.” This past year, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Russia to put an end to the violation of the rights of its citizens who are Jehovah’s Witnesses and stop the official mistreatment of the Witnesses in Russia.
J. R. Brown, Office of Public Information, tel. +1 718 560 5600
Russia: Grigory Martynov, tel. +7 812 702 2691
Belgium: European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, tel. +32 2 782 0015