f18 Logo

The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief

RUSSIA: Mosque demolished, church to follow?

Officials repeatedly rebuffed attempts to legalise ownership of the land where Good News Pentecostal Church in Samara has worshipped for two decades. Officials want to demolish the church, at the congregation's expense. A court hearing is due on 25 September. In May, officials bulldozed a mosque built on farmland near Chernyakhovsk in Russia's Kaliningrad exclave, claiming it violated planning regulations.

RUSSIA: Losing places of worship

Complex, sometimes contradictory, and often inconsistently applied legislation can lead religious communities to lose their places of worship. Officials barred a Baptist community in Novorossiysk from using its church "for religious purposes", despite the fact that it has worshipped on the same site for two decades. Local authorities are often unwilling to permit the construction of purpose-built churches and mosques.

RUSSIA: First Jehovah's Witness ban conviction, more trials underway

In the first conviction deriving from the Supreme Court ban on all Jehovah's Witness activity, Aleksandr Solovyov was fined nearly a year's average local wages, although prosecutors had sought to jail him. Six more trials – of 13 defendants – are underway or imminent.

RUSSIA: Tortured for beliefs, suspect torturers rewarded

Contrary to Russia's international legal obligations, no official responsible for the torture of either a Muslim following his 2015 arrest or seven Jehovah's Witnesses in 2019 has been arrested or put on criminal trial. One of the victims was re-arrested after reporting the torture, and two of the officials implicated have been given awards.

RUSSIA: Jehovah's Witness criminal cases - list

Full list of 200 Jehovah's Witnesses (aged between 19 and 84) known to have been charged or named as suspects for "extremism"-related "crimes" as of 31 May 2019. Of these, 30 are in detention, 28 under house arrest and 76 under travel restrictions. Cases against four were handed to court in late May.

RUSSIA: Second Oryol Jehovah's Witness appeal

The appeal by Oryol Jehovah's Witness Sergei Skrynnikov against a fine of about 18 months' average local wages is due on 13 June at the same court which rejected Dennis Christensen's appeal. At least 189 Jehovah's Witnesses are facing criminal prosecution across Russia. Among them are seven men tortured in Surgut in February.

RUSSIA: Jehovah's Witness appeal fails, appeal to Strasbourg

An appeal court in Oryol upheld the six-year jail term on Jehovah's Witness Dennis Christensen on "extremism"-related charges. In his final address to the court he described the accusations as "ridiculous and absurd". His wife Irina told Forum 18 he will appeal directly to the European Court of Human Rights.

RUSSIA: Imprisonment completed, citizenship stripped, awaiting deportation

The lawyer for Yevgeny Kim, stripped of Russian citizenship and left stateless on completing his nearly four-year jail term for meeting with other Muslims to study Said Nursi's works, says this is the first such case he knows of. Kim was fined and is awaiting deportation to Uzbekistan.

RUSSIA: 159 "anti-missionary" prosecutions in 2018 - list

Forum 18 has found 159 prosecutions in all of 2018 (56 of organisations and 103 of individuals) for violating Russia's July 2016 Administrative Code Article 5.26 "anti-missionary" restrictions. 132 of the 2018 prosecutions resulted in initial convictions (129 fines). 2018 saw a conviction rate of 90 per cent, compared with an 82 per cent conviction rate in the year from July 2016. Three foreigners were ordered deported, and one of the deportations was overturned on appeal).

RUSSIA: 159 known "anti-missionary" prosecutions in 2018

At least 56 organisations and 103 individuals faced prosecution in 2018 under the 2016 "anti-missionary" legal changes. Lawyer Mikhail Frolov warns prosecutions have a chilling effect. "Believers don't understand what they can and can't do, and because of heavy fines they don't want to take the risk and therefore significantly reduce their activity, especially in public."

RUSSIA: Obstructions to Protestant theological education "systemic, intentional"?

The Pentecostal Union's Eurasian Theological Seminary's licence was annulled in October 2018 after inspectors questioned its theology course. The Baptist Union's Moscow Theological Seminary was suspended for 60 days from January 2019, and banned from admitting new students. Pentecostal Union lawyer Vladimir Ozolin says these actions are "systemic, intentional".

RUSSIA: Jehovah's Witness criminal cases - list

Full list of 116 Jehovah's Witnesses known to have been charged or named as suspects for "extremism"-related "crimes" as of 19 February 2019. Of these, 26 are in detention, 28 under house arrest and 42 under travel restrictions. When any of these cases might reach court is unknown.

RUSSIA: 100+ Jehovah's Witness criminal cases

At least 26 Jehovah's Witnesses are in pre-trial detention, 28 under house arrest, and 42 under travel restrictions as more than 100 face "extremism"-related criminal charges. If convicted they could face up to 10 years' imprisonment. Memorial human rights group condemned Dennis Christensen's "shameful and anti-legal" six-year jail term.

RUSSIA: "6-year jail sentence for believing in God"

After 74 hearings over one year, an Oryol court jailed Jehovah's Witness Dennis Christensen for six years for organising a "banned extremist organisation", the first Jehovah's Witness in post-Soviet Russia sentenced to imprisonment. "We will continue to fight for justice through the courts," his wife Irina told Forum 18.

RUSSIA: Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses arrested, Muslims convicted

A Krasnoyarsk court fined 24-year-old Andrei Rekst three months' average wages for studying theologian Said Nursi's writings with fellow Muslims. Another Krasnoyarsk Muslim awaits possible trial under house arrest, unable to attend mosque. Six prisoners of conscience are in labour camp for studying Nursi's works.

RUSSIA: Criminal investigations of 69 Jehovah's Witnesses - list

Full list of 69 Jehovah's Witnesses charged or named as suspects or currently on trial for "extremism"-related offences as of 13 September 2018. Of these, 25 are in detention, 9 under house arrest and 30 under travel restrictions. Four are thought not to be under restrictions.

RUSSIA: Criminal investigations of 69 Jehovah's Witnesses

Amid continuing police, FSB and Investigative Committee raids across Russia, 69 Jehovah's Witnesses are now facing criminal investigations. Of these, 25 are in detention, 9 under house arrest, and 30 under travel restrictions. Three trials are already underway, including of Dennis Christensen, in detention since May 2017.

RUSSIA: Third 2018 conviction for Muslim study meetings

A Krasnoyarsk court handed 27-year-old Sabirzhon Kabirzoda a two-year suspended sentence on 14 August for meeting with others to study his faith using the works of theologian Said Nursi. He is the third such Muslim sentenced in 2018, while trials against two others continue in the same region.

RUSSIA: 2017 prosecutions for religious literature - list

List of 54 known prosecutions under Administrative Code Article 20.29 in 2017 for religious materials which do not incite violence or hatred. 49 resulted in conviction in first instance, with 48 fines and one 2-day jail term. Judges ordered literature confiscated in 20 cases and destroyed in a further 20 cases.

RUSSIA: Prosecutions for religious literature continue

Individuals and communities face punishment for distributing religious books courts have deemed "extremist". Punishments are mostly fines, but in 2017 a court jailed a Muslim for two days for lending a book to colleagues. 2017 saw fewer prosecutions than earlier, mainly because Jehovah's Witnesses – banned as "extremist" – face potential criminal charges.

RUSSIA: 53 Jehovah's Witnesses facing criminal prosecution - list

Full list of 53 Jehovah's Witnesses charged or named as suspects or currently on trial for "extremism"-related offences as of 11 July 2018. Of these, 22 are in detention, 3 under house arrest and 27 under travel restrictions. Only one is not under restrictions as the criminal investigation proceeds.

RUSSIA: Criminal prosecutions of 50+ Jehovah's Witnesses

Prosecutors are investigating at least 50 Jehovah's Witnesses in 16 Russian regions on "extremism" criminal charges. Of these, 21 men and 1 woman are known to be in detention, with 3 more under house arrest and 27 under travel restrictions. If convicted, they could receive lengthy jail terms.

RUSSIA: Two years' jail to punish religious study meetings

The two-year jail term a Novosibirsk court handed to Imam Komil Odilov on 29 June brings to 13 the number of people known to have been jailed to punish them for meeting with others to study Islam using the works of Turkish theologian Said Nursi.

RUSSIA: Protestants targeted in Nizhny Novgorod

Two African students from a Nizhny Novgorod Pentecostal Church were fined and ordered deported for appearing in videos of worship services. The FSB initiated the cases. The Church has also been fined. "The charges of illegal missionary activity are completely unlawful," Pentecostal Union lawyer Vladimir Ozolin told Forum 18.

RUSSIA: Longest jail term yet for religious meeting

In the longest known jail term so far for meeting with others for religious study, a Dagestan court sentenced Ilgar Aliyev to eight years' jail plus two years' restrictions for meeting to study Muslim theologian Said Nursi's writings. Similarly, a Krasnoyarsk court fined another Muslim, Aleksei Dedkov, more than six months' average local wages.

RUSSIA: Further raids, arrests of Jehovah's Witnesses

State agencies launched multiple armed raids on Jehovah's Witnesses' homes in four further regions. Long interrogations followed, including of an 83-year-old woman. Courts put another five people in pre-trial custody as they face criminal investigation. Twelve Jehovah's Witnesses are now behind bars, with at least 30 facing criminal cases.

RUSSIA: 28 new raids, now 20 criminal investigations

Officers launched 28 raids on Jehovah's Witness homes in May, often forcing entry, threatening occupants with weapons and seizing literature and other items. Under criminal investigation are 6 Jehovah's Witnesses in pre-trial detention, 2 under house arrest and at least 11 under travel restrictions. Two others are already on trial.

RUSSIA: Will Constitutional Court reduce "anti-missionary" prosecutions?

Lawyers have cautiously welcomed a March Constitutional Court ruling, hoping it will reduce "missionary activity" prosecutions. However, the first case seeking compensation for an unjustified "missionary activity" prosecution failed. Glorification Pentecostal Church's case against Krasnoyarsk Regional Prosecutor's Office and Russia's General Prosecutor was rejected.

RUSSIA: Another "extremism"-related criminal trial imminent?

The criminal trial in Krasnoyarsk Region of a fourth local Muslim accused of "extremism" for meeting with others to study the works of Muslim theologian Said Nursi appears imminent. Other criminal trials on similar charges of Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims continue.

RUSSIA: Armed raids, criminal investigations, pre-trial detentions

One year after Russia's Supreme Court banned Jehovah's Witnesses, officers mounted armed raids on homes in four regions, some holding guns in individuals' faces. Up to four people in custody and a fifth under travel restrictions face criminal investigations of organising or participating in a banned organisation.

RUSSIA: "Everyone has become much more cautious"

The authorities use two Administrative Code articles to confine the exercise of freedom of religion and belief to easily regulated places, and to limited numbers of people. "Where the boundaries of lawful behaviour lie is incomprehensible," a Hare Krishna lawyer told Forum 18.

RUSSIA: Increasing land use fines "a lottery"

The number of fines for meeting for worship on land not designated for religious use (such as in homes) has increased sharply from 2016. One lawyer compared the legal situation to fining a driver whose passengers drink tea because a road is not designated for drinking tea.

RUSSIA: Ten years' jail for religious study meetings?

Ilgar Aliyev – a Muslim who studied Islam with others using books by theologian Said Nursi – faces up to 10 years' imprisonment if convicted at his Dagestan trial. Imam Komil Odilov faces up to eight years on similar charges. The criminal trials of two others have lasted nearly a year.

RUSSIA: Two criminal trials, three criminal investigations

The criminal trial of Danish Jehovah's Witness Dennis Christensen, accused of "continuing the activities of a banned extremist organisation", began in Oryol after nearly nine months' detention. Investigators launched three similar criminal investigations against Jehovah's Witnesses in Belgorod, Kemerovo and Oryol. Arkadya Akopyan is on trial for inciting religious hatred.

RUSSIA: Property sell-offs, alternative service denials follow Jehovah's Witness ban

Following the Supreme Court ban on all Jehovah's Witness activity – in force since July - Regional Justice Ministry branches are preparing to sell off their confiscated property. Military call-up offices have denied several army conscripts the option of alternative civilian service. Jehovah's Witnesses experience increased state harassment, plus vandalism and violence.

RUSSIA: Falsified "evidence" helped convictions?

Apparently falsified testimonies may have helped jail two Russian Muslim prisoners of conscience, Forum 18 has been told. A representative of publishers who formerly published Russian translations of theologian Said Nursi's works has, without success, appealed to the General Prosecutor's Office to investigate.

RUSSIA: Three more Muslim prisoners of conscience

Three Muslim prisoners of conscience have been jailed, one for four years for organising meetings to study Said Nursi's works, and the other two for three years each. A Danish Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience has had his Russian detention extended.

RUSSIA: Muslim prisoner of conscience tortured

In Russia's prisons one Muslim prisoner of conscience has recently been tortured, and Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses have both been denied literature. Other Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses continue to be on trial and face investigations for allegedly organising or participating in allegedly "extremist" organisations.

RUSSIA: Building, retaining places of worship obstructed

Problems caused by the authorities for non-state favoured communities attempting to build new places of worship can include demolition if a mining company wants the land, repeated refusal to legalise land claims, and the withdrawal of building permission while construction is underway.

RUSSIA: Jehovah's Witness Bible, Jewish, Christian, Muslim books banned

Banned as "extremist": Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Bible, other Jehovah's Witness and Muslim books, an article on the Jewish concept of the Holy Land, a Jewish historical novel claimed to incite hatred of Catholics, a book on "Christian women persecuted for their faith" and an atheist slideshow.

RUSSIA: First prosecution after Jehovah's Witness ban

In the first prosecution since the Jehovah's Witness ban came into force, Kursk prosecutors are investigating a woman on "extremism" criminal charges for offering leaflets to passers-by. Elsewhere, Jehovah's Witness elder Yury Zalipayev is under investigation on "extremism" charges. Five Muslim Nursi readers are on trial.

RUSSIA: "Anti-missionary" punishments full listing

As many as 193 individuals and communities have been brought to court in the year since "anti-missionary" punishments came into force on 20 July 2016. Forum 18's list of known cases documents the wide range of people and communities across Russia subjected to such punishments.

RUSSIA: One year of "anti-missionary" punishments

In the first year of "anti-missionary" punishments, Forum 18 found 193 cases under Administrative Code Article 5.26, Parts 3, 4 and 5. Of these 143 resulted in initial convictions (140 fines). In 11 cases religious literature was confiscated. Five foreigners were ordered deported (one overturned on appeal).

RUSSIA: Jehovah's Witnesses now banned

Russia's Supreme Court has upheld liquidation of all Jehovah's Witness organisations as "extremist". If they exercise freedom of religion and belief, all Jehovah's Witnesses can now be criminally prosecuted. A Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector has also been ordered to work with nuclear weapons.

RUSSIA: Changing administrative punishments for public events

Prosecutions under Administrative Code Article 20.2 for exercising freedom of religion and belief in public fell in 2016 as officials turned to "anti-missionary" Article 5.26 (Parts 3, 4, and 5), which came into force in July 2016. Article 5.26 offers far higher financial penalties.

RUSSIA: Prison, trials, investigations for religious meetings

Yevgeny Kim was jailed for three years, nine months in Blagoveshchensk for meeting to study Muslim theologian Said Nursi's works. Another nine elsewhere are on trial or being investigated. Two Jehovah's Witnesses appear to have received a verdict in Sergiyev Posad. Other criminal cases continue.

RUSSIA: "Extremist" literature fines rose in 2016

Administrative prosecutions for religious literature and videos deemed "extremist" (all Jehovah's Witness or Muslim) rose between 2015 and 2016. Across Russia 103 defendants were punished, including one man's 13-day jail term and a Jehovah's Witness congregation's 45-day suspension. Prosecutions led to a mosque being liquidated.

RUSSIA: Fines, vandalism follow Jehovah's Witness liquidation

As Jehovah's Witnesses challenge the Supreme Court liquidation of all their organisations as "extremist", their Centre is closed, police have sealed some Kingdom Halls and bank accounts are frozen. Individuals continue to face fines, children face pressure, and places of worship face increased vandalism.

RUSSIA: Further arrest for Muslim study groups

The mid-April arrest in Dagestan of Ilgar Aliyev brings to twelve the number of Muslims known to be on trial or under criminal investigation for meeting to study Turkish theologian Said Nursi's writings. The "extremism"-related criminal trial of two Jehovah's Witnesses continues.

RUSSIA: Jehovah's Witnesses banned, property confiscated

Supreme Court declares Jehovah's Witness headquarters and local communities "extremist", bans all their activity immediately, and orders their property seized by state. Russia's estimated 170,000 Jehovah's Witnesses now risk criminal prosecution for "extremist activity" if they continue to meet for prayer or bible study.