Dozens of 'missionary activity' convictions in Russia in first half of 2020

(Photo: Armed Forces Cathedral

There were dozens of prosecutions for "missionary activity" in the first half of 2020 in Russia, says a Norway-based Christian group that monitors violations of freedom of thought, conscience and belief mainly in former Soviet Union countries.

"Forum 18 has found 42 prosecutions in the first half of 2020," said the group.

These included two of organizations and 40 of individual) for violating Russia's July 2016 Administrative Code Article 5.26.

Parts 4 and 5, of this law punish "illegal missionary activity."

A total of 36 of the prosecutions resulted in initial convictions, all being punished with fines (though a few were overturned on appeal). The first half of 2020 saw a conviction rate of 92 per cent. Two foreigners were ordered deported.

There were 40 prosecutions of individuals and two of organizations, with 36 resulting in convictions and fines, Christian Today reports.

Of the four foreigners who were charged, the courts ordered the deportation of two.

They were sent to immigration detention centers ahead of their deportation and it is believed that one of them, Tajik citizen Fayzali Kholmurodov, is still in detention six months after his conviction in February this year because Tajikistan's borders have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Forum 18 said the number of cases reaching the courts dipped slightly between January and June 2020, most likely owing to restrictions in place because of coronavirus.

The convictions include:

- Baptist ministry leader Anatoly Chipilka in Krasnodar, southern Russia, who was fined 5,000 roubles ($68) for carrying out an unspecified missionary activity without notifying the Justice Ministry of the group's existence.

- Lyudmila Akimenko, another Baptist, who was fined 5,000 roubles by the court in Orenburg, near the border with Kazakhstan, for distributing religious literature to passers-by in the street without authorization from a religious group or notification to the Justice Ministry of the existence of a religious group.

- Konstantin Nazarov, the Protestant pastor of an unregistered church in the Republic of Adygeya, in the North Caucasus, who invited local residents to services. He was fined 5,000 roubles for carrying out missionary activity without notifying authorities of the religious group's existence.

- Nikita Glazunov, the leader of Catholic religious group, the Society of Saint Pius X, in Tatarstan, who was charged with organizing Latin Mass in a hotel conference room that involved a "foreign preacher" who did not have written authorization from the religious group to perform missionary activity.

- Anatoly Feoktistov, a Pentecostal pastor fined 5,000 roubles in Chelyabinsk, west central Russia, after holding Sunday services in a residential building.

- G.R. Gaydarbekov, a Muslim man Muslim charged for giving lessons on Arabic grammar and how to read the Quran at a mosque without necessary documents from the religious organization for missionary activity. Fined 5,000 roubles in Kirov District Magistrate's, Makhachkala, Dagestan Republic

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