ICC NOTE: The latest to be directly affected by Russia’s so called anti-missionary law are three protestant Christians where two have been fined heavily and one is due in court soon. The two who were levied fines were foreign citizens with legal status in Russia. Fortunately they were not deported as is one of the forms of punishment under the law for foreign nationals. The third is a Russian citizen and is due in court next week.
8/26/2016 Russia (Forum 18) – The first known punishments have now been handed down under Russia’s new amendments punishing sharing beliefs, which came into force on 20 July. In cases in Tver and Oryol, two individuals – both foreign citizens legally resident in Russia – have been heavily fined, but neither was ordered deported. Their convictions and the grounds for them leave an ever more confused picture of how this new legislation will be put into practice, Forum 18 notes. In the Mari-El Republic a Pentecostal leader is due to face a Magistrate’s Court on the afternoon of 29 August.
Four individuals are known to have been charged so far under the new provisions of the Administrative Code, Article 5.26, Part 4 and Part 5. These are (name; religious affiliation; location; date charged; Administrative Code Article; trial date and result):
1. Vadim Sibiryev; Hare Krishna; Cherkessk; 28 July; Article 5.26, Part 4; 15 August acquitted.
2. Ebenezer Tuah; Protestant; Tver; 31 July; Article 5.26, Part 5; 1 August fined.
3. Aleksandr Yakimov; Pentecostal; Mari-El Republic; 5 August; Article 5.26, Part 4; 29 August due in court.
4. Donald Ossewaarde; Baptist; Oryol; 14 August; Article 5.26, Part 5; 14 August fined.
Administrative Code Article 5.26, Part 4 punishes “the conducting of missionary activity in violation of [the Religion Law]”. For individuals, this carries a fine of 5,000 to 50,000 Roubles – for religious organisations, a fine of 100,000 to 1 million Roubles. The new Part 5 fines foreign and stateless persons 30,000 to 50,000 Roubles for the same “offence”, and the possibility of deportation from the Russian Federation. The new Part 3 fines religious organisations 30,000 to 50,000 Roubles for activities (including the distribution of literature) carried out without displaying their official full names.
A fine of 50,000 Roubles (6,300 Norwegian Kroner, 680 Euros, or 770 US Dollars) represents about six weeks’ average wages for those in work.
First prosecution attempt fails
The first known charges under the “missionary law” were brought under Article 5.26, Part 4 against Hare Krishna devotee Vadim Sibiryev in Cherkessk on 28 July, just days after the amendments introducing the new regulations came into force. He was acquitted on 15 August when the judge concluded that his actions did not meet the definition of “missionary” activity (see F18News 19 August 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2209).