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
12 July 2018
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.
11 July 2018
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.
2 July 2018
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.
25 June 2018
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.
8 June 2018
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.
6 June 2018
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.
25 May 2018
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.
16 May 2018
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.
27 April 2018
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.
23 April 2018
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.
18 April 2018
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.
20 March 2018
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.
1 March 2018
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.
20 February 2018
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.
19 December 2017
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.
11 December 2017
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.
8 December 2017
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.
7 November 2017
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.
26 October 2017
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.
29 September 2017
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.
25 August 2017
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.
9 August 2017
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.
8 August 2017
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).
18 July 2017
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.
5 July 2017
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.
23 June 2017
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.
19 June 2017
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.
26 May 2017
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.
12 May 2017
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.
20 April 2017
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.
7 April 2017
RUSSIA: Police harassment as Supreme Court considers ban
Russia's Supreme Court is due to resume considering a total ban on Jehovah's Witness activity on 12 April. Already police in several towns have disrupted their worship. A Moscow community's rental of a hall to mark their main annual commemoration was cancelled after an FSB visit.
4 April 2017
RUSSIA: Trial for studying religious books begins
Eleven Muslims charged or on trial for meeting to study Turkish theologian Said Nursi's works face up to six years' imprisonment if convicted. The trial of three men began in Dagestan, while another continues in Blagoveshchensk. Two Jehovah's Witnesses also remain on criminal trial.
21 March 2017
RUSSIA: Jehovah's Witness activity largely halted
Russia has summarily suspended most Jehovah's Witness activities. UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai told Forum 18: "The Russian government is claiming that the Jehovah's Witnesses are an extremist group, but in fact it's their move to ban them outright that appears to be extreme."
15 March 2017
RUSSIA: Justice Ministry seeks complete Jehovah's Witness ban
With no public announcement, Russia's Justice Ministry lodged a suit at the Supreme Court today (15 March) to declare the Jehovah's Witness Administrative Centre "extremist", to liquidate it, and to ban its activity. If successful, this would ban all Jehovah's Witness activity across Russia.
1 March 2017
RUSSIA: Alleged "missionary activity" prosecutions continue
Prosecutions continue under "missionary activity" restrictions, and have led to the first known deportation of a foreigner, Indian Victor-Immanuel Mani. This separates him from his Russian wife and young child. Separately, appeals have been made against two court orders to destroy Bibles, the Bhagavad Gita, and other texts.
16 February 2017
RUSSIA: Jehovah's Witnesses to be liquidated?
Russia appears to be moving to close the Jehovah's Witnesses' headquarters as "extremist". If this happens, all 406 registered local organisations and over 2,500 religious groups would be highly likely also to be liquidated, ending Jehovah's Witness open public communal life in Russia.
15 February 2017
RUSSIA: Warnings and forced community liquidations increase
Russia's forced dissolution of local communities, literature bans, and "extremism" prosecutions increasingly restrict Jehovah's Witnesses' freedom of religion and belief. On 16 January, their national Administrative Centre in St Petersburg lost its latest legal challenge of a prosecutors' warning threatening it with liquidation.
1 February 2017
RUSSIA: Long-running cases against Muslims for meetings
Eleven Russian Muslims currently face "extremism" criminal charges for meeting together and reading the works of theologian Said Nursi. Two have been detained before trial since March 2016, and one has not been allowed to pray. An atheist blogger's next hearing is on 2 February.
26 January 2017
RUSSIA: Ten years' imprisonment for religious meetings?
Prosecutors state Yevgeny Kim faces up to 10 years' imprisonment for studying a Muslim theologian's works with friends. His criminal trial began in Blagoveshchensk on 25 January after a year in prison. Two Jehovah's Witness elders face "inciting religious hatred" criminal charges in Moscow Region.
13 January 2017
RUSSIA: Religious freedom survey, January 2017
Russian laws restricting freedom of religion and belief have increased, as have prosecutions of people exercising this freedom. Given intensifying official hostility to independent public activities without state permission, freedom of religion and belief and interlinked human rights may in future be increasingly restricted.
20 December 2016
RUSSIA: Inconsistency of "anti-missionary" punishments
Confusion and inconsistency mark decisions whether to prosecute individuals and religious organisations for sharing beliefs under so-called "anti-missionary" punishments, which came into force in July, and what the outcome of court hearings is. Of 33 known prosecutions, 17 ended with convictions and fines so far.
24 October 2016
RUSSIA: Many meetings raided and evidence planted
Raids on Jehovah's Witness premises now take place more than three times per month. These raids on doctrinally pacifist religious communities often involve many heavily armed and camouflaged officials, with the "discovery" of apparently planted banned "extremist" literature. Legal dissolution of communities can follow.
13 September 2016
RUSSIA: "Extremism" religious freedom survey, September 2016
Russia's "Extremism" Law and associated Criminal and Administrative Codes (with ever-harsher punishments) are used to arrest, imprison or fine individuals exercising freedom of religion and belief, punish communities for meeting, and ban publications on religion which do not encourage violations of others' human rights.
26 August 2016
RUSSIA: Punishments under anti-sharing beliefs changes begin
Three individuals – two of them foreign citizens – are the first known victims of Russia's new amendments punishing sharing beliefs, which came into force on 20 July. All were fined. A Russian citizen is due in court on 29 August. An earlier prosecution ended in acquittal.
19 August 2016
RUSSIA: Anti-sharing beliefs changes' first use
Less than four weeks after Russia's "anti-terrorism" changes restricting sharing beliefs came into force, a Judge acquitted Vadim Sibiryev on 15 August in the first known attempted prosecution. "Anti-extremism" Police had charged Hare Krishna devotee Sibiryev for offering religious books on the streets of Cherkessk.
8 July 2016
RUSSIA: Putin signs sharing beliefs, "extremism", punishments
President Putin has signed amendments imposing harsh restrictions on sharing beliefs, including where and who may share them, and increased "extremism" punishments, introduced with alleged "anti-terrorism" changes. There are widespread Russian protests against the suddenly-introduced changes, and may be a Constitutional Court challenge.
4 July 2016
RUSSIA: Sharing belief restrictions, increased "extremism" punishments?
President Putin may sign amendments imposing strict limits on sharing beliefs, including where and who may share them, as well as increased "extremism" punishments, introduced with alleged "anti-terrorism" changes. There are widespread Russian protests against the suddenly-introduced changes, though some fear consequences for protesting.
29 June 2016
RUSSIA: Eleven new "extremism" criminal trials?
Eleven further Muslims face criminal prosecution for reading works of theologian Said Nursi the authorities claim are "extremist". Five are in pre-trial detention and three under travel restrictions. A twelfth has already been given a two-year suspended sentence, the first for sharing Nursi's works online.
24 May 2016
RUSSIA: Jehovah's Witnesses face possible liquidation
If prosecutors proceed with their threat to liquidate the Jehovah's Witness headquarters near St Petersburg, thousands of local congregations across Russia could also face prohibition of their activities and individuals could be vulnerable to criminal charges for expressing their beliefs, Forum 18 notes.
18 May 2016
RUSSIA: 2015 prosecutions for publicly sharing beliefs
Unapproved sharing of beliefs were a quarter of 2015 prosecutions for public events in Russia. Forum 18 found 119 individuals and 3 religious organisations prosecuted, a sharp rise on 2014. Initial punishments were 80 fines, 2 short-term jailings and one community service term.