FSB officers raid Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES OFFICE OF PUBLIC INFORMATION

For Immediate Release
July 16, 2008

FSB officers raid Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia

YEKATERINBURG, Russia—On Wednesday, July 16, at 11:00 a.m., officers from the FSB security service arrived at a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Yekaterinburg and detained 18 members present, some of whom were doing building repair work, others were rehearsing for an upcoming Bible convention. The officers searched the premises and seized Bible-based religious literature. They refused to allow the Witnesses to use their mobile telephones to contact a lawyer. About five hours later, the 18 were released.

The basis given for the raid was that the Asbest City Prosecutor’s Office had instigated a criminal case challenging the nature of the religious literature distributed by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The same literature published by Jehovah’s Witnesses is freely available and well-known internationally. Jehovah’s Witnesses regularly supply it to many of the world’s major libraries. In Russia, the literature has already been subjected to an expert study by the Russian Federation Ministry of Justice following the adoption of the Federal Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations.

During the Soviet era, thousands of men, women, and children were exiled to Siberia (and other places) for their “anti-Soviet activity,” though in fact it was purely because they were practicing their faith. In a decree on March 14, 1996, the Russian Federation President condemned the “long-term terror unleashed by the Bolshevik Soviet Party regime against ministers and adherents of all confessions.” By the same decree, the Prosecutor General’s Office together with the FSB were ordered to “carry out the rehabilitation of Russian citizens who were unjustly charged with political, State and criminal violations, imprisoned, subjected to other forms of deprivation or restrictions of their rights in connection with their religious activity or convictions.” In the following years, thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses were rehabilitated as victims of political repression.

Vasilii Kalin, Chairman of the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, stated: “In view of this history, the recent events in Asbest are very hard to comprehend. It is a grave concern to see the country taking these steps to restrict freedom of conscience and religion.”

Contacts:
Yaroslav Sivulskiy, telephone +7 911 087 80 09,
e-mail: jwinform@wtbts.org.ru

Marcel Gillet, telephone 32 2 782 0015
European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses

Philip Brumley, telephone 845 306 0711
General Counsel for Jehovah’s Witnesses

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