First time ever: Belarus arrests Jehovah's Witness persecuted in Russia

Belarusian law enforcers detained a Russian citizen belonging to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It is the first time that Belarus has withheld a Jehovah’s Witness who is persecuted on religious grounds in Russia, the association says on its website.

On February 21, the Belarusian police ID’ed 36-year-old Nikolai Makhalichev and informed him of his being put on the international wanted list by Russia over professing ‘prohibited’ religion. As a result, the believer landed up in a temporary detention centre in the Belarusian town of Haradok.

Three days later, a local prosecutor ruled to transfer the man to Prison Nr 2 in Vitsebsk. According to the order, Makhalichev ‘acted intentionally, he was driven by religious intolerance and extremist motives which manifest themselves in the propaganda of superiority of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ religious doctrine followers over others persons.

The believer considers the ruling illegal; he is set to appeal against it in the Belarusian court. The man has also filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee.

The criminal case against Nikolai Makhalichev was opened in January, 2019 in Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug.

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Jehovah’s Witnesses is an international religious organisation with millions of adherents around the world. Jehovah’s Witnesses conduct their activities in most countries of the world. At the same time, in some countries their activity is restricted or banned (among them China, Russia, Vietnam and some Islamic countries).

The organisation was recognised as an extremist by the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in 2017. Its activity in Russia is prohibited. Human rights activists believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted solely for their religious beliefs and have repeatedly demanded that political repression against the organisation be stopped.