Photo: Invasion of believers in Polyarny (2018)

Actions of Law Enforcement Officers

In Yakutia, mass searches in the homes of believers

Sakha (Yakutia)

On June 30 and July 1, 2018, in the city of Lensk (Yakutia), police raids were conducted in 8 homes of local citizens who are suspected of practicing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. After the searches, 22 people were taken to the police station, 15 people were interrogated. A criminal case was initiated against 42-year-old Igor Ivashin under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, and a written undertaking not to leave was taken from him.

The searches were carried out by employees of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), including Andrey Romanenko and Andrey Myreev. During the interrogations, the investigators claimed that the citizens had been under surveillance for more than six months.

Russian law enforcement officers mistakenly mistake the joint religion of citizens for participation in the activities of an extremist organization. The Human Rights Council under the President of Russia drew attention to this problem: "Accusations of citizens that they read the Bible together and pray to God are interpreted as "continuation of the activities of an extremist organization." The Council considers that such an interpretation is inconsistent with the legal position of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation ... This cannot but cause concern, since criminal prosecutions and arrests have become systemic."

What is happening in Lensk is of great concern to Jehovah's Witnesses around the world. The last time such close attention of believers was to this city was 17 years ago, after the devastating flood of 2001, during which three families of Jehovah's Witnesses lost their homes and many others suffered. They and other victims were assisted by their fellow believers from all over Russia through the nearby town of Mirny (Yakutia).

Case of Ivashin in Lensk

Case History
In June 2018, 22 Jehovah’s Witnesses were taken to police stations in Lensk, Yakutia, during mass searches. Operational-search activities were carried out by employees of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), including investigators Andrey Romanenko and Andrey Myreev. During the interrogations, it turned out that civilians had been under surveillance for more than six months. During this time, the telephone conversations of Igor Ivashin, one of the detainees, were tapped. In addition, audio and video surveillance were conducted in his apartment. As a result, a criminal case was initiated under the article “organization of the activities of an extremist organization”. The prosecutor requested that Igor Ivashin be sentenced to 7 years in prison, but on April 1, 2020, the judge of the Lensky District Court of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Zhanna Schmidt, sentenced him to 6 years probation for believing in Jehovah God. The Court of Appeal upheld the verdict.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Sakha (Yakutia)
Locality:
Lensk
Suspected of:
according to the investigation, together with others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as organising the activity of an extremist organisation (with reference to the decision of the Russian Supreme Court on the liquidation of all 396 registered organisations of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Court case number:
11802980009000034
Initiated:
June 29, 2018
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Investigative Department of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-144/2019
Case History