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Pastor Donald Ossewaarde Pledges to Continue Appeals Process to the End

 10/4/2016 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the appeal for Pastor Donald Ossewaarde, an American charged under Russia’s anti-terror law, has been rejected. The September 30 ruling came after a full day of proceedings where Pastor Ossewaarde was found guilty of illegal missionary activity according to the presiding judge. The anti-terror laws, also known as the “Yarovaya” laws, place new restrictions on individuals’ and organizations’ abilities to freely practice their religious beliefs.

After a 10-day recess from the original September 19 hearing, the case resumed on September 30 in order for further testimony to be presented. The decision was handed down at 4:00 p.m. local time where, in a statement lasting only five minutes, Pastor Ossewaarde was found to be in violation of the missionary activity portion of the Yarovaya laws.

US Embassy officials met with Ossewaarde on September 29 and were present again for the proceedings, demonstrating a high degree of interest.

According to Pastor Ossewaarde’s blog, the prosecution brought in new evidence which should have appeared in the September 19 proceeding. New evidence was presented in an apparent attempt to connect a US-based organization, Baptist International Missions Inc. (BIMI), to the pastor and demonstrate foreign influence.

Pastor Ossewaarde commented on the alleged connection, “BIMI is a service organization that collects my donations, forwards them to me, and provides other support services.” He continued by saying, “I am not an employee of BIMI, nor do I teach ‘BIMI doctrine,’ and I am certainly not trying to get Russian people to ‘join BIMI.’”

BIMI is a US-based missions agency that distributes financial support provided by churches, charities, and individuals directed toward Christian leaders throughout the world.

Despite the recent setback, Ossewaarde has vowed to continue his appeals process for as long as needed.

Pastor Ossewaarde was levied a fine of 40,000 Rubles ($621 USD) under Russia’s controversial Yarovaya laws on August 14 after he was sentenced for conductingrituals and ceremonies associated with religious activities without proper authorization. The possible punishment for foreign nationals under the law ranges between 30-50,000 Rubles and deportation. The laws, which have been labeled by many in the faith community as the “anti-missionary” laws, heavily restrict the activity of missionaries and other faith-based individuals.

Andrew Kerr, ICC’s Russian Program Coordinator, stated, “We are saddened to hear of the recent ruling handed down by the court in Oryol, Russia. Despite the recent setback, we are happy to hear that Pastor Ossewaarde has vowed to continue his fight through the court system. He, like many other Christians and religious minorities, understands the importance of his case and that of others wrongfully accused under such an archaic law. We are also encouraged to see the State Department’s continued interest in his case. Diplomatic pressure will play a key role in helping to ensure that more do not fall prey to these atrocious laws. ICC and others will continue to advocate on his behalf and for all of the Russian people who are quickly seeing their right to religious freedom erode.”

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller at Comm.Coord@persecution.org