A church pastor has been the first person charged under the Russian government’s new anti-terror laws, which have placed draconian restrictions on religious freedom. Officials raided a Christian children’s camp in Noyabrsk in Siberia, near the Arctic Circle, on 20 July, the first day the new legislation came into force, and charged a church pastor with “the conducting of missionary activity”. He was found guilty and fined 5,000 roubles (around £58).
A believer from Ghana living in Moscow was also charged with the same offence, for holding Christian meetings and using the pool at a sanatorium for baptisms at weekends. He was fined the maximum amount of 50,000 roubles (around £580). A U.S. citizen was also prosecuted for allegedly advertising that he was holding religious services in his home. Police interrupted a Sunday meeting at Donald Ossewarde’s house in Oryol on 14 August. He was immediately charged and taken to a police station and then to court, where a judge found him guilty in just over two hours. Following the guilty verdict, Mr Ossewarde’s lawyer, who was appointed by the court, cautioned him not to appeal and warned him and his family to leave the country. A Russian church pastor from the town of Mari-Turek in western Russia is also being prosecuted for “missionary activity” for speaking on stage at a local festival; the outcome of his magistrate’s hearing on 29 August is not yet known.
Of the six people so far charged under the new laws, four are Christians and to date all the believers who have been charged have been found guilty.
Source: Forum 18