f18 Logo

The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief

RUSSIA: "Russia has deceived Interpol"

Russia is using Interpol Red Notices to try to get back at least three citizens now based abroad to prosecute them on extremism charges for exercising freedom of religion or belief. Two are Muslims who meet to study their faith using the writings of Said Nursi. The Red Notices appear to violate Interpol's rules, which ban their use in ways that violate individuals' human rights.

RUSSIA: Three prisoners of conscience stripped of citizenship

Authorities have stripped Russian citizenship from three men jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief: Muslim Yevgeny Kim in January 2019, and Jehovah's Witnesses Feliks Makhammadiyev and Konstantin Bazhenov in April 2020. Kim and Makhammadiyev are now stateless. Russia has been trying to deport Kim since 2019, and might try to deport Makhammadiyev and Bazhenov when they complete their jail terms.

TAJIKISTAN: Impunity for torturers continues

Impunity for multiple instances of torture of Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Protestants continues. Conscientious objector and prisoner of conscience Jovidon Bobojonov was tortured by soldiers kneeling on his neck. Officials refuse to tell Forum 18 why suspect torturers have not been arrested and put on criminal trial for torture, as international human rights law requires. Tajikistan's assurances to the UN Human Rights Committee of introducing civilian alternative service remain unfulfilled.

RUSSIA: Currently jailed, serving suspended sentences, fined - list

Eleven people are serving prison terms and eight suspended sentences under the Extremism Law for exercising their freedom of religion and belief. A further seven have been fined. One man was sentenced to assigned labour, but this was changed on appeal. Of these, 25 are Jehovah's Witnesses, and two are Muslims who met with others to study the works of the Turkish theologian Said Nursi.

AZERBAIJAN: Strasbourg Court rules long pre-trial detention "excessive"

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled in three cases in 2020 that Azerbaijan violated the rights of 13 individuals by subjecting them to excessively long pre-trial detention, and ordered compensation. Five of these had been detained for exercising freedom of religion or belief. Imam Taleh Bagirov – who was tortured in pre-trial detention – and Zakir Mustafayev are still serving jail terms.

AZERBAIJAN: Will fired parliamentary staffer be reinstated?

Former parliamentary staffer Rahim Akhundov says he was fired in December 2018 on secret police orders as he is a Christian. Courts – most recently Baku Appeal Court on 10 June 2020 - rejected arguments that his unsigned dismissal letter is illegal, and he could not appeal earlier as Parliament sent the letter nine months late. He will appeal to the Supreme Court when he receives the written appeal rejection.

RUSSIA: 6.5 years' jail for building "world theocratic state" with 700 roubles

A Pskov court handed a six and a half year jail term to 61-year-old Jehovah's Witness Gennady Shpakovsky. This is the second-longest jail term yet on "extremism"-related charges for meeting with others to pray and study beliefs. Muslim Ilgar Aliyev received an eight-year prison term in 2018. Prosecutors claimed two jars of small donations Shpakovsky had were to finance building a "world theocratic state".

CRIMEA: Third jailing as second Jehovah's Witness jailed

In the third jailing in Russian-occupied Crimea on "extremism" charges to punish the exercise of freedom of religion and belief, Jehovah's Witness Artyom Gerasimov was jailed for six years after a prosecutor appealed against an earlier fine. Jailed earlier were Muslim Renat Suleimanov for four years and Jehovah's Witness Sergei Filatov for six years. Like Suleimanov and Filatov, Gerasimov expects to be sent to a prison in Russia.