02/20/2020, 11.45
RUSSIA
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Siberia, eight Jehovah's Witnesses indicted for extremism

In 2017, Moscow outlawed the religious movement, accusing it of harming the nation. For human rights organizations, security forces have searched at least 780 homes since 2017.

Moscow (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Russian authorities in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast's in Siberia have charged eight "Jehovah's Witnesses" (TdG), six women and two men for "extremism". For administrators, they are guilty of criminal activity, since the JWs were banned in 2017. For those who defend human rights, these arrests are another case of repression of religious freedom, freedom of the movement and persecution of religious minorities in Russia.

The indictment was issued on February 18 against the eight faithful by the authorities of Birobidzhan, the regional capital of the autonomous province. Since the beginning of 2020, similar charges have been filed against 11 other members of the movement.

In April 2017, Russia banned the activities of the religious group and labeled it an "extremist organization". Jehovah Witnesses have been viewed with suspicion for decades. They are considered a "threat to citizens' rights, public order and public safety" because of their considerations on military service (they refuse to leverage), the right to vote and governmental power in general (they don't sing the anthem national and do not pay homage to secular powers).

The Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center recognized 29 Witnesses accused or detained for extremism as "political prisoners". According to Human Rights Watch, Russian security forces have "dramatically increased national persecution" against the faithful over the past year. For the NGO, Moscow authorities have searched at least 780 JW homes since 2017, more than half of which in 2019.

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