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2 April 2019

CRIMEA: Raids, another criminal case, four appeals

Armed Russian FSB security service officers raided eight Jehovah's Witness homes around Yalta, seizing religious literature. Artem Gerasimov faces "extremism"-related criminal charges with a maximum ten year jail term, the second Crimean Jehovah's Witness to face such charges. On 16 April, Russia's Supreme Court is due to hear appeals by four Muslims convicted in January of membership of the Muslim group Tabligh Jamaat.

24 January 2019

CRIMEA: Four years' jail for mosque meetings

Crimea's Supreme Court jailed 49-year-old Muslim Renat Suleimanov for four years for meeting with others in mosques to discuss their faith. Three others were given suspended sentences. All were accused of membership of the Tabligh Jamaat missionary movement, banned in Russia. All denied any "extremism".

9 January 2019

CRIMEA: "Anti-missionary" prosecutions double in 2018

Compared to the first year they were implemented, punishments in Russian-occupied Crimea for ill-defined "missionary activity" doubled in 2018. Of 23 prosecutions for sharing faith or holding worship at unapproved venues, 19 ended in punishment. Also, 17 cases were brought for communities not using their full legal name.

28 November 2018

CRIMEA: Up to 10 years' jail for Muslims, Jehovah's Witness?

In "extremism" criminal cases opened by Russia's FSB in occupied Crimea, four Muslims face imminent trial, while Jehovah's Witness Sergei Filatov is under investigation. They face up to 10 years' jail. The Muslims "simply gathered in the local mosque to discuss religious questions", a lawyer stated. "We simply ask the authorities to respect our rights to meet together and read the Bible," Filatov told Forum 18.

24 July 2017

CRIMEA: One year of Russian "anti-missionary" punishments

Administrative cases were brought against 13 individuals in Crimea for "missionary activity" in year since Russia imposed such punishments. So far, 8 were fined about 10 days' average wages. Fourteen cases were brought against communities and individuals to punish failing to use organisation's full legal name.

5 January 2016

CRIMEA: Paying fines "would be to admit that they did something wrong"

Three of eight Baptists from Saki in western Crimea who refused to pay fines for holding a public religious meeting were sentenced to 20 hours' community service each in October 2015. Five fines were imposed by Judge Irina Shevchenko without a formal court hearing. A fine of about six weeks' average local wages has been ordered to be automatically deducted from the wages of another Baptist. Items from the homes of four others have been identified for possible seizure. Council of Churches Baptists refuse to pay fines imposed for exercising their freedom of religion or belief. "They didn't pay the fines as to do so would be to admit that they did something wrong," a church member told Forum 18 News Service. However, Crimea's Supreme Court has overturned September 2015 fines imposed on two Jehovah's Witnesses distributing religious literature. Meanwhile, after the deadline for all religious communities to re-register with the Russian Justice Ministry expired on 1 January 2016, only about 400 religious organisations have been re-registered. Over 1,100 religious communities which had legal status under Ukrainian law no longer have legal status under Russian law.

16 September 2015

CRIMEA: Madrassahs closed – for one year or for ever?

As the 2015-6 academic year begins, at least five of Crimea's madrassahs (Islamic colleges) have been forced to remain closed, Forum 18 News Service has learned. One of those unable to re-open was the madrassah in Kolchugino, dramatically raided by armed security forces in June 2014. Also forced to remain closed are four of the five madrassahs run by the Crimean Muftiate. "Of course the Muftiate wants all five of the madrassahs to function so that children can get appropriate religious education," the Muftiate told Forum 18. "But we hope we will be able to re-open them for religious education in September 2016 for the next academic year." Valentina Boiko of Crimea's Education Ministry told Forum 18 that no religious organisations of any faith have sought the licences they require under Russian law to run religious education colleges. Although licences are not compulsory until September 2016, she refused to say why the madrassahs cannot function in the 2015-6 academic year. Boiko also claimed that "all religious education must have a licence", even in Sunday schools, otherwise it would be illegal.

26 June 2015

CRIMEA: "Expert conclusions" force structure and activity changes

"Expert conclusions" by Russia's Justice Ministry Expert Council have led to some Crimean religious organisations having to make changes to get re-registration under Russian law, Forum 18 News Service notes. The Crimean Muftiate had to cut its ties to the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (a political organisation). The nine Catholic parishes had to formally cut ties with their Diocese of Odessa-Simferopol in southern Ukraine and are now in a Pastoral District of Crimea and Simferopol. Yalta's Augsburg Lutheran congregation had to remove a reference to pilgrimages in its statute. It is unclear what may happen if a pilgrimage is organised. "Observations" in the "expert conclusion" on the Tavrida Muftiate – the smaller of the two Crimean Muftiates – have so far blocked its re-registration. Of the 15 communities which have undergone "expert analyses" in Moscow so far in 2015, the Tavrida Muftiate is the only one which has so far failed to gain re-registration after receiving an "expert conclusion".

24 June 2015

CRIMEA: Fined for books that "have absolutely nothing to do with the mufti"

Ruslan Saitvaliyev, mufti of the Tavrida Muftiate, has insisted that his fine of nearly a week's average local wage for "extremist" literature is unjust. He says books police and Prosecutor's Office officials claim to have seized during a raid on an independent mosque in the Crimean capital Simferopol have nothing to do with him, a Muslim familiar with the case told Forum 18 News Service. Prosecutor's Office official Anna Ober – who led the raid – refused to discuss it with Forum 18. The warden of a hostel for medical academy students has been fined over two Muslim books found in a prayer room which Russian authorities deem "extremist". And an eighth Baptist has been fined the equivalent of three weeks' average local wages for participating in an open-air religious meeting. However, State Council deputies have dropped a proposed new administrative offence of "religious agitation in public places" in Crimea.

3 June 2015

CRIMEA: New punishments for "religious agitation in public places"?

A new draft Law on Administrative Offences in the Republic of Crimea would, if adopted in current form, prescribe fines for the undefined "offence" of "religious agitation in public places". The draft passed its first reading in the State Council (Crimea's parliament) in May. Although fines would be relatively small, they would rise for repeated "offences", Forum 18 News Service notes. "I don't understand what they envisage" by the term "religious agitation in public places", Chair of the State Council's Culture Committee Svetlana Savchenko told Forum 18. Asked if Orthodox Easter processions around churches might be punishable, she responded: "Processions are not agitation – giving out books or leaflets is." Meanwhile, a senior Crimean Muslim official was twice fined in April for failing to pay earlier fines because institutions under his authority had religious books the Russian authorities claim are "extremist".

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