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

CRIMEA: "My husband does not admit any guilt"

"My husband does not admit any guilt," says Svetlana Sakada, wife of one of four Jehovah's Witnesses in pre-trial detention after 1 October raids in Sevastopol. She insists that Vladimir Sakada "has conducted no crimes against the foundations of the state". The four face up to ten years' imprisonment if convicted on "extremism"-related charges. Already on trial in Sevastopol facing the same charges is fellow Jehovah's Witness Viktor Stashevsky.

CRIMEA: Ten months in Russian "prison within a prison"

Prisoners of conscience Jehovah's Witnesses Sergei Filatov and Artyom Gerasimov are being denied letters sent to them. Muslim prisoner of conscience Renat Suleimanov is being denied letters sent in his own language of Crimean Tatar. He has been held for ten months in Kamenka Labour Camp's closed zone, in a cell holding 10 prisoners, but may be released in December. All were transferred illegally to jails in Russia.

CRIMEA: Mosque closed as "There is no community there"?

Officials have closed the mosque in Zavetnoye in Sovetsky District of eastern Crimea, which was handed to the community in 2004. Police and plain clothes officers raided it in March. In April, a court fined Imam Dilyaver Khalilov for leading Friday prayers. Asked how the Muslim community should worship now the authorities are seizing their place of worship, Emil Velilyayev, deputy head of Sovetsky District, responded: "There is no community there."

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.

CRIMEA: Prosecuting worship as "illegal missionary activity"

Prosecutors in Alushta brought a case against Imam Yusuf Ashirov on 1 April of conducting "illegal missionary activity" by leading Friday prayers. Imam Dilyaver Khalilov faces a similar case after police and plain clothes officials raided the mosque just after Friday prayers. A Simferopol court similarly fined Imam Rasim Dervishev. "It is absurd to require anyone to ask permission to conduct religious rituals," his lawyer Ayder Azamatov insists.

CRIMEA: "Unjustifiable to jail someone for reading the Bible"

Jehovah's Witness Sergei Filatov was today sentenced to six years' jail with an additional five years' additional restrictions, and his co-believer Artyom Gerasimov was in a separate trial fined about two years' average salary. "I'm outraged, because it is unjustifiable to jail someone for reading the Bible," Filatov told Forum 18 before the sentence.

CRIMEA: Six months in Russian prison punishment cell

In January, Crimean Muslim prisoner of conscience Renat Suleimanov completed six months in Russian labour camp punishment cell for an alleged conflict with another prisoner. He was then transferred to the camp's strict section. Suleimanov's lawyer insists the accusation was fabricated to punish his client. On 3 and 5 March, verdicts are expected in criminal cases against Jehovah's Witnesses Artyom Gerasimov and Sergei Filatov.

CRIMEA: 35 "anti-missionary" prosecutions in 2019

Prosecutions in Russian-occupied Crimea for ill-defined "missionary activity" in 2019 were at the same rate as in 2018. Of 24 prosecutions in 2019 for sharing faith or holding worship at unapproved venues, 17 ended in punishment (fines of five days' average wages). Also, 11 communities were prosecuted for not using their full legal name outside their meeting place or in religious literature.

CRIMEA: Court orders parish to destroy its chapel

A Crimean Court ordered the Orthodox Church of Ukraine to destroy its wooden chapel in Yevpatoriya, built before the 2014 Russian occupation. The parish is challenging the 6 November decision. A Judge again fined Imam Aydar Islyamov one week's average wages for leading Friday prayers at a Mosque. Prosecutors lodged "missionary activity" charges after failing to find Land Code violations.

CRIMEA: UN call to halt Cathedral eviction

The United Nations Human Rights Committee is considering an appeal by 62 parishioners of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine's Sts Volodymyr and Olga Cathedral in the Crimean capital Simferopol. Russian courts ordered the eviction of the community from the building it has rented since 1995. The UN Committee warned Russia not to evict the community while it considers the appeal.

CRIMEA: Four months in Russian prison punishment cell

Prison officials in Russia's Kabardino-Balkariya Region will not say why they put Crimean prisoner of conscience Renat Suleimanov in a punishment cell in July, where he remains. Suleimanov was jailed as an "extremist" as an alleged adherent of the Tabligh Jamaat Muslim movement. Criminal trials of Jehovah's Witnesses Sergei Filatov and Artyom Gerasimov have begun. Imam Rustem Abilev was fined three months' average wages.

CRIMEA: Prisoner sent to Russia, more awaiting trial

Arrested in 2017, sentenced in January 2019, Muslim prisoner of conscience Renat Suleimanov has lost all his appeals. In May he was transferred from occupied Crimea to a labour camp in Russia, where he was placed in punishment cell. A court transferred Imam Rustem Abilev to house arrest as he awaits trial. Russian FSB officers raided Jehovah's Witnesses in Yevpatoriya and Sevastopol, bringing another criminal case.