ICC Note: As previously reported, an American pastor, Donald Ossewaarde, was convicted under Russia’s recently implemented Yarovaya laws for “conducting illegal missionary activities.” He has made several appeals, reaching even the Russian Supreme Court, and most recently to the European Court of Human Rights. The leading lawyer on his case noted that bringing the matter to the European Court of Human Rights is a “last resort” in challenging this law that poses a threat against religious freedom in Russia.
By Joseph Hartropp
03/29/2017 Russia (Christian Today) – A US Baptist pastor found guilty of ‘conducting illegal missionary activities’ in Russia has taken his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Donald Ossewaarde held weekly Bible meetings at his home in Oryol, Russia for years before ‘anti-terrorism’ laws were used to charge him with conducting illegal activity. He was found guilty and given a fine of 40,000 rubles (over $600).
He has made several appeals, including one to the Russian Supreme Court, all of which have been unsuccessful. Today he filed his appeal, citing the violation of religious liberty, to the European Court of Human Rights, with the support of ADF International, a legal organisation that advocates for religious freedom.
‘Freedom of religion is one of the most fundamental rights. Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. Despite the Russian Constitution guaranteeing freedom of conscience and religion for all, Donald Ossewaarde has been charged with a criminal offence for holding a peaceful Church service in his own home,’ said Laurence Wilkinson, Legal Counsel for ADF International and leading lawyer on Ossewaarde’s case.
She added: ‘His conviction is a hugely concerning development for religious freedom across Russia in general, and for Christian missionaries in particular.’
Ossewaarde, an American citizen, is the first US missionary to be charged under the so-called ‘Yarovaya’ counter-terrorism legislation introduced in July 2016. Policemen came to his home on August 14, 2016, to interrupt the ‘illegal’ Bible study he and his wife were hosting, then took him to the local police station to be charged.