Chairwoman Hautala met on 11th of November with representatives of Russian
Jehova’s Witnesses to discuss the freedom of religion and status of criminal
charges against Jehova’s Witnesses in Russia. [:]
She received information over harrasment and persecution of Jehova’s Witnesses in Russia with great concern. Main cover for their targeting is being done under the cover of alleged extremist activities of the Russian Law on Countering Extremist Activity. It appears that there are hundreds of incidents of harassment carried out by the authorities and acts of violence by the general public.
In total, there are 12 open criminal cases against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia at present. In two of these cases, charges have been filed.
While a trial date is pending for the charges against Mikhail and Larisa Cheprunov, the proceedings against Aleksandr Kalistratov in Gorno-Altaysk, Altay Republic, have been now commenced.
Mr Kalistratov, Chairman of the Gorno-Altaysk Local Religious Organization, was indicted on 9th of September under Article 282(1) of the Russian Criminal Code, which includes incitement to hatred or enmity and denigration of human dignity. His alleged crime is the alleged distributing of religious literature that was retroactively declared extremist by the Rostov Regional Court.
Chairwoman underlined that she remains gravely concerned over the widespread use of extremism law and persecution of not only religious practitioners but also wide range of other human rights activists. The trials concerning extremism are also cause of persistent distress as shortcomings and manipulations of such judicial proceedings are pervasive.
Chairwoman Hautala underlined that as the first proceedings against Jehova’s Witnesses in Russia is now underway, it is of utmost importance that the officials and judges ensure that standards of fair trial be diligently observed.