Legal Case of the Week: Scientology

posted 14 Nov 2016, 07:55 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Nov 2016, 07:55 ]
On 9 November 2016, The Moscow Times reported that a leader of a Scientologist community in Astrakhan had been fined for violating recently adopted anti-terrorism legislation. Amendments to the law, known as the 'Yarovaya package' after the member of the State Duma who introduced them to the State Duma, restrict missionary work exclusively to officially registered organizations and only in authorized places. 

While the sources do not name the individual who has been fined, The Moscow Times writes that the organizer "had set up a booth in a local shopping center where patrons could learn about the Church of Scientology and the works of its founder, the late L. Ron Hubbard. She was found guilty of violating the provision on missionary work and fined the minimum amount of 5,000 rubles ($79)." The Moscow Times quotes an assistant to a district prosecutor in Astrakhan as saying: 'The organizer of this action also arranged a 'Volga tour of goodwill,' during which they distributed information on the works of L. Ron Hubbard,' said Elena Lidzhi-Goryaeva".

Victoria Arnold of Forum 18 has recently published an analysis of the application of extremism legislation on religious minorities in Russia. She writes: 'Russia's "Extremism" Law and associated Criminal and Administrative Codes (with ever-harsher punishments) are used to arrest, imprison or fine individuals exercising freedom of religion and belief, punish communities for meeting, and ban publications on religion which do not encourage violations of others' human rights.' 

In the conclusion to her article, Victoria Arnold notes: "Since 2014 there has been a significant rise in prosecutions of individuals (many of whom are pensioners) for alleged "production or mass distribution of extremist materials" (Administrative Code Article 20.29), and a significant increase in law enforcement attention towards Jehovah's Witness communities, several of which have been dissolved as "extremist" organisations. Criminal investigations and prosecutions (principally of Muslims who read Said Nursi's works) can be distressing for suspects and defendants, often involving armed raids on homes and places of worship, pre-trial detention, and drawn-out, expensive court proceedings." In the report by The Moscow Times cited above, the publication notes, "Previously, a Protestant pastor in Kemerovo and an Archbishop for the Russian Orthodox Reformed Church were fined under the same provision."

Image: Wikipedia

'Scientologist Fined for Violating "Yarovaya Law",', The Moscow Times, 9 November 2016
Victoria Arnold, 'RUSSIA: "Extremism" religious freedom survey, September 2016,' Forum 18, 13 September 2016