Special Rapid Deployment Force Raids Jehovah’s Witness Gathering in Norilsk

tomsk raidPolice raiding Jehovah’s Witnesses in Tomsk in 2018. Photo courtesy of the website Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia

Special Forces Raid Recreational Compound in Norilsk Where More Than 50 Jehovah’s Witnesses Were Gathered, Criminal Charges Filed
OVD Info
October 22, 2019

On October 20, the Special Rapid Deployment Force (SOBR) raided a recreational compound in Norilsk where more than fifty Jehovah’s Witnesses had gathered, later carrying out searches in some of their homes, according to a report posted the next day on the religious organization’s website. A source in law enforcement confirmed that the raid had happened, according to local news website Tayga.info.

“Masked commandos broke into the building and ordered everyone who was there to surrender their telephones and tablets,” said the report on the Jehovah’s Witness website. Some of the people were then taken away in minivans to be interrogated or have their homes searched. Witnesses noticed the Norilsk Nickel logo on some of the vans.

There is information about searches in five homes. They lasted around five hours. Police confiscated Bibles, computers, tablets, and telephones from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The interrogations took place at the local headquarters of the Russian Investigative Committee. The people interrogated were asked questions from a questionnaire consisting of twenty-five questions. In particular, they were asked about their affiliation with the “forbidden” faith.

According to Tayga.info’s source, criminal charges have been filed against the leader of the local Jehovah’s Witness community.

On April 20, 2017, the Russian Supreme Court declared the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia an “extremist” organization, abolishing it and banning it from operating in Russia. In August of the same year, all local Jehovah’s Witness organizations in Russia were banned, setting off a subsequent wave of criminal cases against members of the church.

In February 2019, a court handed down the first sentence against a Jehovah’s Witness involving a long term of imprisonment: Danish national Dennis Christensen was sentenced to six years in prison. He has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which has promised to review it.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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Is Lydia Bainova an “Extremist”?

lydia bainovaLydia Bainova. Photo courtesy of Newsru.com and Tayga.info

FSB Files Charges against Khakassia Woman for Social Media Post Defending the Republic’s Indigenous Population
Newsru.com
July 24, 2018

The secret services have opened a criminal investigation into Lydia Bainova, a 30-year-old Abakan resident, after she published a post on the VK social media network. The mother of a young child, Ms. Bainova promotes Khakas culture. Tayga.info reports she has been accused of inciting ethnic hatred. According to the website, the FSB’s Khakassia office has charged the young woman with violating Article 280 Part 2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code, which forbids public calls for “extremism” through the media or interent.

Tayga.info quotes the FSB’s indictment, which alleges Bainova “realized her criminal intentions using an Asus brand laptop with access to the internet.”

She posted a text containing the following passage: “At such moments, one feels like organizing a revolution, a coup, giving back power and land to our people, winning them back.”

FSB Investigator Marov decided the passage was a public call for “extremism,” Tayga.info reports.

However, the indictment does not quote Bainova’s entire post, which largely deals with cases of harassment suffered by Khakassia’s indigenous inhabitants. Bainova, for example, told her readers that children were told that only ethnic Russians were allowed in the playroom of an Abakan establishment.

“Some have been lucky not to encounter nationalism. During the twenty-nine years of my life in Abakan, I have encountered it constantly. My mother and father have constantly been the target of trenchant comments, like, ‘You’re Khakas and you got a three-room flat in the center of town,” or, ‘You’re a Khakas woman, but you dress so well,’ and so on,” Ms. Bainova wrote  on VK.

Ms. Bainova has denied her guilt. She believes it was her public outreach work that attracted the FSB’s attention. She popularizes Khakas culture, has been involved in an ethnic music festival, and advocates the preservation of Khakas traditions and the Khakas language.

Investigators commissioned a psycho-linguistic forensic examination of Ms. Bainova’s post. The examiners reached the same conclusion as the FSB. Ms. Bainova’s defense counsel said the forensic examination was performed “extremely unprofessionally.”

The maximum penalty for violating Article 280 Part 2 of the Russian Criminal Code is five years in prison. In early June, a court in Tver Region sentenced a local electrician to a two-year suspended sentence for publishing a post against Vladimir Putin. Earlier this year, a resident of Sevastopol was sentenced to two years in prison, while a Petersburg resident was sentenced to ten months in a penal colony on the same charges.

Translated by the Russian Reader