04/14/2010, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Jehovah's Witnesses treated as "terrorists"

Investigations and searches from house to house, seizing religious material "extremist" allegations. A Kingdom hall in Budennovsk set on fire. Just like under Stalin?

Moscow (AsiaNews / Agencies) - "You are extremist terrorists" is how a woman rebuked some Jehovah's Witnesses (JW), her work colleagues, after a campaign launched by police in Kasimov and other cities of the province of Ryazan (southwest of Moscow). In recent days, groups of police officers have visited house to house, and stopped people in the streets and markets asking them if they have never bothered by JW, if they have given them publications if they could identify them. Police have also visited schools and talked to principals asking them if they had complaints against parents and students who belong to the group.  

In conversations the police report that TDG "in search of single people and pensioners, win their trust and take their property."    

The JW are worried about this campaign that increases hatred toward them. Between March and April at least three Kingdom Halls (JW places of assembly) in Ryazan suffered police raids that during assemblies, interrogations of those present seizures of books and leaflets.  

Police have also searched the homes of 21 JWs, confiscating books, movies, personal letters, diaries, journals, computers, almost as if it were "extremist" material.  

 JW representative Anton Omelchenko, states that "committing this crime against the JW shows the degree of religious intolerance which in Russia today."    

On the night of March 20, at Budennovsk (Stavropol in southern Russia), a fire destroyed the local Kingdom Hall. Experts and technicians have determined that the fire was arson

According to JW, Russia is returning to the methods of Stalin in 1951, when they were suppressed and many of them deported. All the victims were later rehabilitated.  

Currently the organization is accused of being an "extremist sect" of having an "unfriendly attitude towards other churches” and of “refusing military service”, although the constitution allows the alternative civilian service.  

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