KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 23 February 2001

I. RUSSIA: JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES WIN MOSCOW COURT CASE.
The Moscow community of Jehovah's Witnesses has today won the long-running
court case against their activity in the capital. The judge ordered the
prosecution to pay costs for the expert commission which has been
considering the evidence for the past two years. The prosecution has ten days
to appeal against the verdict.

II. TURKMENISTAN: RUSSIA REJECTS JEHOVAH'S WITNESS
DEPORTEE. An attempt by the Turkmen political police to deport a
Jehovah's Witness to Russia last month failed after Russian border guards
refused to allow him entry, in the first case known to Keston News Service
where Russia has refused to accept a religious deportee. Konstantin Vlaskin
is a citizen of Turkmenistan, making his deportation illegal under Turkmen
law and its international human rights commitments.

I. RUSSIA: JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES WIN MOSCOW COURT CASE

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

The judge at Golovinsky Municipal Court today (23 February) announced
that the Moscow community of Jehovah's Witnesses has won the long-
running court case against their activity in the capital, Jehovah's Witness
representative Paul Gillies told Keston News Service. The ban was sought in
September 1998 by the prosecutor of Moscow's Northern Administrative
District under Article 14 of Russia's 1997 law on religion, which, among
other provisions, outlaws religious organisations found to have incited
religious hatred or damaged their members' health.

Also speaking to Keston this afternoon, Jehovah's Witness lawyer Artur
Leontiyev said that Judge Yelena Prokhoricheva has additionally ordered the
prosecution to pay a total of 80,000 roubles (approximately 2,800 US dollars
or 1,800 pounds sterling) in costs for the expert commission of five
specialists which has been considering the evidence for the past two years.
The prosecution has ten days to appeal against the verdict.

Keston has been unable to confirm the decision with the court, which has not
yet released any written verdict. According to Gillies, however, a statement
setting out the motivation for the judge's decision will be issued by the court
in approximately one week. Gillies commented to Keston that this was the
first time that a Russian court has come out with such a positive decision for
the Jehovah's Witnesses: 'It is a clear move forward for the independent
judiciary in this country,' he told Keston. (END)

II. TURKMENISTAN: RUSSIA REJECTS JEHOVAH'S WITNESS
DEPORTEE

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

An attempt by the Turkmen political police the KNB (former KGB) to
deport a Jehovah's Witness to Russia last month failed after Russian border
guards refused to allow him entry, citing his failure to hold all the necessary
documents. This is the first case known to Keston News Service where
Russia has refused to accept a religious deportee, most of whom are
summarily expelled with no official certificate of deportation and even - on
some occasions - with no personal documentation. Most of those deported
have been foreign citizens, but Konstantin Vlaskin is a citizen of
Turkmenistan, making his deportation illegal under Turkmen law and its
international human rights commitments. `No one shall be subjected to
arbitrary ... exile,' declares Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights.

Vlaskin, leader of the Jehovah's Witness community in the eastern city of
Turkmenabad (formerly Chardjou), confirmed to Keston from Turkmenabad
on 21 February that he is a Turkmen citizen and that he was refused entry to
Russia on 22 January because he did not have the right documentation.
However, he declined to discuss the attempted deportation, declaring only
that there had been no problems since being freed in the wake of the failed
attempt.

Contacted by telephone on 23 February, an official of the consular section of
the Russian embassy in Ashgabad - who declined to give his name - refused
to discuss Vlaskin's case, referring all enquiries about deportations of both
Turkmen and Russian citizens to the head of the consular section, who was
absent and whose name he declined to give.

Contacted by telephone the same day, the consul at the Turkmen embassy in
Moscow, Baigeldy Gelenov, told Keston he had no information on Vlaskin's
case. However, he promised to investigate and report back within a week
what he had discovered. He confirmed that the Turkmen government cannot
deport its own citizens.

The KNB summoned Vlaskin on 13 January and abused him verbally, he
reported in a statement of 18 January. Officers demanded he sign a statement
to say he would renounce his position as head of the local Jehovah's Witness
community and no longer attend meetings. `They did not suggest renouncing
my faith,' he stressed.

`When I refused they took me by the left ear (so that I would not pull my
head back) and began to strike my head blow after blow, and twisted my
hands. When the officer tired, he had a break, then took a club and began to
beat me. He aimed at the crown of my head, ears and wrists. But mostly the
beating was on the back from the left side and on the chest near the heart.'
Officers told Vlaskin if he refused to sign the statement he would face
`prison without any hope of amnesty or deportation'.

Vlaskin asked that if he was to be deported they should give some notice so
he could collect his belongings. `They liked this phrase and stopped beating
me.' When the KNB city chief arrived at 5 pm he took Vlaskin to his office
where he beat him around the head, swearing on the Koran he would lock
him up or personally deport him. `He said he has clear instructions from the
khyakim (mayor) that there must be no drug addicts, prostitutes or Jehovah's
Witnesses in the city.' No court, procurator or medical report would help
him.

KNB officers told Vlaskin to resign his job and report for deportation on 21
January. Vlaskin resigned on 15 January, but was unable to complete the
paperwork without his military card, which the police had confiscated in
1999. KNB officers took his passport and mobilisation card and said they
would recover his military card. On 22 January he was put onto a train, but
even the presence of an accompanying KNB officer did not prevent Russian
border guards barring his entry to Russia. He was returned to his home in
Turkmenabad and released.

Meanwhile Pyotr Kashin, a Russian Baptist whose registration to live in the
Caspian port of Turkmenbashi was annulled while he was on a return visit to
Turkmenistan in January and who was subsequently deported (see KNS 31
January 2001), has still not received an explanation for his deportation,
despite a promise from Turkmen consular officials. Gelenov told Keston that
he had not yet had time to write to Kashin as he had just come back from a
work trip, but would do so within a week. (END)

Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.