Russia: Freedom of assembly and expression of Jehovah’s Witnesses curtailed

RUSSIA_(f)_0708_-_Nazionalisti_ortdossiIn Krymsk, police officers broke up a Jehovah’s Witnesses congress. Cossacks who arrived with them cut off the electricity to the stadium at which the event was being conducted, and then they pelted believers with stones.

It was reported on 21 July that in Krymsk, personnel of the police and Cossacks disrupted a three-day congress of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The event lasted from 10 to 12 July in the stadium in Krymsk. Participants included believers from Krymsk, Anapa, Gelendzhik, and Novorossiisk.

Members of the society described how “in the morning of the second day, 11 July, Witnesses who were arriving for a worship service saw around the stadium strangers who turned out to be law enforcement personnel and representatives of Cossackdom. The latter behaved extremely aggressively, demanding that the worship service cease. They put pressure on the director of the complex. Soon unidentified persons turned off the electricity in the complex. Although believers were offended by such a gross disruption of the service, everyone remained in their places calmly. After 45 minutes generators were delivered and the service continued. Unfortunately, aggressively minded people began throwing stones and bricks into the territory of the complex, causing a threat to the health of believers. At the same time, police and other law enforcement personnel did not put a stop to these actions. Instead, unidentified influential persons continued to put pressure on the administration of the complex, demanding to halt the worship service. In the end, the meeting was broken up and believers were forced to disperse to their homes, without bringing the service to its conclusion, since the planned third day of worship could not be held.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses think that the actions of the police and Cossack personnel impeded their right to freedom of religious confession. In their opinion, “the local prosecutor’s office, trying to justify the illegal actions of their colleagues in disrupting the worship service spread the fantasy about some kind of preliminary march.” Actually, the website of the prosecutor’s office said that “the worship service was accessible to everybody and it was conducted in the form of a mass meeting of more than 1,500 citizens on the territory of the athletic structure, accompanied by the movement of persons along a previously planned route” and thus it should have been conducted with a notification of the authorities.

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Category: A Frontpage, Jehovah's Witnesses, Religion, Russia, World

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