11/13/2009, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Jehovah’s Witnesses write to Medvedev, tell him they are persecuted like in Soviet times

The religious community complains about “arbitrary” trials, persecution and a campaign of “demonisation’ by the courts and the press. They ask Russian president to “guarantee their constitutional rights” and protect them “from bureaucratic arbitrariness.”
Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The leader of Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses has appealed to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to protect his community from a campaign of persecution.  V.M. Kalin, chairman of the steering committee of the ‘Administrative Centre of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia’ (ACJWR), wrote to the Kremlin leader, complaining about “arbitrary” trials against members of his community (see AsiaNews, 17/09/2009, “Court in Rostov bans Jehovah’s Witnesses for being religious extremists,” in AsiaNews, 17 September 2009, and “Altai court condemns Jehovah’s Witnesses for “extremism,” in AsiaNews, 5 October 2009).

In his letter, the ACJWR chairman noted that his community has been in Russia for more than a century, and that only under Soviet rule did it suffer discrimination and persecution. Now, it is subjected to a process of “demonisation" by some courts with the support of the press.

For Kalin, Medvedev’s article “Russia, Forward”, which appeared in Gazeta.ru, on 10 September of this year, is a source of hope because it refers to the ideals of the separation of state and religion and peaceful coexistence.

Russia’s president, the letter explains, should realise that Jehovah’s Witnesses are present in 236 countries around the world, but that only in 25 is “their freedom of conscience” restricted, nations “famous for the crudest violations of human rights.”  

All the community wants is for Medvedev to “guarantee their constitutional rights” and protect them from “bureaucratic arbitrariness”.

Ultimately, “basic rights, for which Jehovah's Witnesses are fighting today, are vitally necessary for the maintenance in Russia of democratic liberties and the construction of civil society”.

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