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Officials in Siberia target married couple with unjust criminal charges

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For Immediate Release

December 22, 2011


CHITA, Russia—A married couple in the Siberian city of Chita is now the target of baseless criminal charges brought by Russian authorities.

On December 22, 2011, court proceedings are due to begin in the city of Chita on a case opened against Andrey and Lyutsiya Raitin, under Article 282 (1) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. This is the second criminal case of its kind that has reached the stage of court examination. On the same day, December 22, the Supreme Court of the Altay Republic reversed a guilty verdict in the first case, which was against Aleksandr Kalistratov, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in another Siberian city, Gorno-Altaysk.

The investigator for the Raitin’s case claims that giving the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? to acquaintances should be considered as “inciting to hatred or enmity on the grounds of religious affiliation.” However, the Plenum of the Russian Supreme Court ruled the following on June 28, 2011: “Criticism of political organizations, ideological and religious associations, political, ideological, or religious convictions, or of national or religious customs should not, on its own, be viewed as an action aimed at the incitement of hatred or enmity.”

Andrey Raitin stated: “Inciting to hatred never came to our mind! As Jehovah’s Witnesses, my wife and I respect people of all faiths and cultural backgrounds. In our conversations, we seek to draw attention to what we all have in common and principles that can draw people closer to each other. The charges are all false. I think that this case is really an attack on our religion.”

Earlier this year, the officers of law-enforcement agencies in Russia carried out numerous searches in the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For example, on the morning of February 8, 2011, 13 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Chita were searched. Later, on March 29, 2011, another three homes were ransacked in the nearby city of Baley. One of the homes belonged to an elderly Witness couple, aged 74 and 78, who had been earlier exonerated as victims of political repressions during the Soviet era.

Grigory Martynov, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, stated: “We have no choice but to continue protecting our right to religious freedom and freedom of expression through legal means. Hopefully, the courts of Russia will eventually rule to put an end to the harassment of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Article Source: JW-MEDIA.ORG

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