People persecuted by court in Crimea for their religious convictions
Crimean Human Rights Group records the facts of oppression and persecution of believers in the occupied Crimea.
The website of the Crimean occupation authority “Magistrate of the Republic of Crimea” contains information on six decisions on administrative cases instituted in 2017 for religious activities in the Crimea under Part 3 of Art. 5.26. Administrative Code of the RF (carrying out activities of a religious organization without the indication of its official full name) and Part 4 of Article 5.26. Administrative Code of the RF (carrying out missionary activity in violation of the requirements of the legislation). Violation of these points results in fines ranging from 30,000 to RUR 50,000 and from RUR 5,000 to 50,000 for individuals, respectively.
On February 9, 2017, the ‘Magistrate of the Bakhchisaray district’ Artyom Cherkashin imposed an administrative fine on the inhabitant of Crimea, Muslim Arsen for the distribution of calendars, leaflets on the preparation of the Maulide (Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad) and the book Mevlyud Ayi Khairli Olsun to Ganiyev (Part 4 Article 5.26 of the Administrative Code of RF). "Judge Cherkashin considered it as missionary activity in an unauthorized place.
On February 18, ‘Magistrate’ of the Yalta court district Olena Beckenstein imposed a fine of RUR 30,000 on the head of the local religious organization “Church of the Seventh-day Adventists of Yalta” Grigory Stasyuk for the lack of a signboard on the building where the church preaching was conducted (Part 3 Article 5.26 of the Administrative Code of RF).
On May 11, 2017, ‘Magistrate of the Bakhchisaray District’ Olena Yeşina imposed a fine of RUR 30,000 on the pastor of the local religious organization “Christians of the Evangelical Church ‘The Church of the Renaissance” Mykola Blishchik for the lack of a signboard on the premises where the sermons are held (Part 3 Article 5.26 of the Administrative Code of RF).
In June 2017, ‘Magistrate’ of the Kerch district Khazret Chich imposed on Martyushov S.V. and Kudin E.A. a fine of RUR 5,000 each for participating in the worship of the local branch of Jehovah's Witnesses church (Part 4 Article 5.26 of the Administrative Code of RF).
On June 19, 2017, ‘Magistrate’ of the Yalta court district Petr Kireev imposed a fine on Sazonov D.G. in the amount of RUR 5 000 rubles under Part 4 Article 5.26 of the Administrative Code of RF.
The “Magistrate” accused Sazonov that he, not being authorized by the organization Jehovah's Witnesses, when at worship, read the Bible, sang songs and prayed. The magistrate considered this as a missionary activity.
“Persecution for religious activities is a violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, according to which everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes the freedom to practice one’s religion or belief during the worship service, or in conjunction with other, public or private procedures. The restriction of this right is possible only in the interests of national security and public order. However, in all of these cases, there was no such threat,” Oleksandr Sedov the expert of the Crimean human rights group explained.
“In addition, the restriction by the occupation authorities of the opportunity to conduct religious rites and prosecution for this by the residents of the occupied territory violates Article 27 of the Geneva Convention (IV) on the protection of civilians during the war,” said the human rights activist.
As reported, on June 27, 2017, in the city of Dzhankoy a Kremlin-backed magistrate Alkhazov Tulparov held a court session in the case of Vitaliy Arsenyuk, who was accused of illegal missionary activity under Part 4 Article 5.26 of the Administrative Code of RF. Arsenyuk headed the local Committee of Jehovah's Witnesses that is banned in Russia. That same night, after Arsenyuk's trial, he died of an extensive heart attack.
All of the above prosecutions are carried out within the framework of the ‘Yarovaya Law’ adopted in July 2016 - a package of amendments that aggravate responsibility for “extremist” and “terrorist” activities. In particular, the ‘Yarovaya Law’ supplements Article 5.26 of the Administrative Code of RF with paragraphs 3 and 4.
On April 20, 2017, the Supreme Court of Russia recognized the Jehovah's Witnesses organization to be extremist and banned its activities, which is also a violation of freedom of conscience and religion.