11/21/2013, 00.00
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Russia, attacks on Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecostals increase under anti-extremism law

by Nina Achmatova
Experts from the Sova center denounce the escalation of attacks against religious minorities. On November 25 Tagarong trial opens against 16 Jehovah's Witnesses accused of extremism for continuing to pray and read the Bible together, after the ban on the community decided by the Russian Supreme Court in 2009.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - In the province of Rostov in southern Russia , the instrumental use of the law against extremism to persecute religious minorities and has led to an increase in intolerant social attitudes, physical and verbal aggression especially against Protestants and Jehovah's Witnesses.  Ezhednevni Zhurnal denounces the situation in an article by Ksenia Sergazina, a Sova center expert, which monitors incidents of intolerance throughout the country.

Jehovah's Witnesses in Tagarong continue to be singled out by investigators. Here on November 25 the first hearing of the trial against 16 of their members begins.  They were indicted in April for having restored the local community of this international religious organization, banned four years ago. In 2009 , in fact , the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation upheld the ruling of the Rostov court, which required the dissolution and banning of Jehovah's Witness community in Taganrog , Neklinov and Matveeva - Kurgan , because they were deemed "extremist". The human rights activists have denounced the unlawful use of the law against extremism and demanded that Russia respects the right to religious freedom.

But appeals to the authorities were useless. On the contrary: even without waiting for the outcome of the trial, October 28 , the investigative bodies of Rostov-on-Don announced that they had placed five other JWs under investigation. Officially, they are charged with "not having renounced their faith and continued to study the Bible together", despite the ban. All five are now required not to leave town. Among them was a retired couple, the husband - Vladimir Chesnokov - was already persecuted for his faith in the times of the USSR.

The article denounces the "instrumental" use of the law to discriminate against and prosecute "religious objectors" , ie those that promote community values ​​considered not to be in line with those of traditional Russian values. In the past, not only the texts of the Jehovah's Witnesses, but also Muslims and Scientology have been deemed "extremist " and therefore banned from the country. Owning them, using them for liturgies and even mentioning them is likened to participation in extremist activity.

As a result of this judicial persecution, in 2013 , there has been increasing aggression and intolerance towards these minorities. From January to November 2013, most of the victims were Muslim (31), Jehovah's Witnesses (13), Pentecostal ( 3 ) and also the Orthodox (2) . Five were threatened with death, while others were beaten by common people, police and staff of the FSB , the Russian intelligence services . The Jehovah's Witnesses are being targeted in a special way not only in the province of Rostov, but also in Moscow, Lukhovitsy , Omsk , Yoshkar -Ola , Voronezh , Kirov and Chelyabinsk .

The article concludes with an appeal not to remain indifferent to this escalation of violence. "You can imagine the extent of the phenomenon, looking back to the persecution of believers throughout the USSR - writes Sergazina - in modern Russia the only difference is that certain groups are being persecuted, but this should not make it more acceptable, it is a violation of freedom of conscience".


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