Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Russia: "Extremist" literature fines against people and organizations of minority faiths rose in 2016


These figures represent an increase on the previous two years. In 2015, 89 prosecutions led to 79 punishments (including four jail sentences); in 2014, 65 prosecutions led to 56 fines.

Anti-Jehovah's Witnesses Billboard in Russia
Times of Ahmad | News Watch | Int'l Desk
Source/Credit: Forum 18 New
By Victoria Arnold | June 19, 2017

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.

A total of 123 individuals and organisations across Russia are known to have been brought to court in 2016 for the so-called "mass distribution" of religious literature and other items deemed to be "extremist", Forum 18 has found. None of this material appears to incite the violation of human rights, violence or hatred. Of this total, 103 defendants ended up with punishments, including a 13-day jail sentence for one man who shared a video on social media, and a 45-day suspension of activity for a Jehovah's Witness congregation in Voronezh.

These figures represent an increase on the previous two years. In 2015, 89 prosecutions led to 79 punishments (including four jail sentences); in 2014, 65 prosecutions led to 56 fines.

Despite the relatively low fines for private individuals and officials, conviction under Administrative Code Article 20.29 can have serious consequences for the communities to which they belong. The Mirmameda Mosque, an unregistered religious group in Samara Region, was declared "extremist" and its activities banned after its imam was fined twice in 2016 – once for a banned video posted on the group's social media page, once for a banned book allegedly found in its mosque.

Several registered Jehovah's Witness organisations were dissolved as "extremist" in 2016 after Article 20.29 prosecutions; these convictions were also cited as one of the reasons for the liquidation of the Jehovah's Witness Administrative Centre and all local congregations across Russia in April 2017.


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