2019-12-25 19:46:00

Leader of Jehovah's Witnesses in Vologda detained in extremist organization probe

Moscow, December 25, Interfax - The Russian Investigative Committee has launched a criminal investigation in relation to the head of the Vologda branch of Jehovah's Witnesses (banned in Russia) and his associate.

"The Russian Investigative Committee's first department for especially important cases in the Vologda Region has opened a criminal case against two Vologda residents on suspicion of a crime under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code (organizing activities of an extremist organization)," the Investigative Committee told Interfax in a statement on Wednesday.

"In the course of joint operational investigatory activities, officers of the regional department of the Investigative Committee and the anti-extremism center of the Russian Interior Ministry branch in the Vologda Region detained the 45-year-old actual head of the banned religious organization and his 67-year-old accomplice," the statement said.

As part of the operation, investigators held a series of searches in apartments, cars, and garages of the cell's organizers and active members. "As a result of the searches, investigators seized literature, financial documents, and propaganda materials. They have interrogated a range of witnesses and ordered a theological legal investigation," it said.

According to the investigators, the detainees organized "activities of the religious organization Jehovah's Witnesses Vologda, knowing for a fact that this organization had been placed on the banned organization list and a court had issued an effective decision to dissolve the latter and ban its activities."

The suspects began acting intensively in January 2019 toward organizing the said organization's illegal activities, including organizing religious performances and services, distribution of extremist literature, and fundraising activities, the statement said.

"At this point, all circumstances of the crime are being determined. A court has granted the investigation's motion to select custody as a measure of restraint for the organization's head, and house arrest for his accomplice. The investigation of the criminal case is ongoing," it said.