Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses targeted for prayer event
BARNAUL, Russia, Oct. 14 (UPI) — A group of Jehovah’s Witnesses may face prosecution from the Russian government for a prayer vigil held in August, officials said.
The incident took place Aug. 23-25 at a horseracing track in the Siberian city of Barnaul where an estimated 3,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses gathered to pray during a three-day vigil, RIA Novosti said Monday.
Russian authorities said the gathering may have violated the nation’s new strict rules on public gatherings, enacted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the weeks after his re-election when opposition forces took to the streets protesting his rule.
There are an estimated 130,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and they’ve faced persecution in the past. In 2004, a Russian court ordered the dissolution of a Moscow-area branch of the religion amid charges members were brainwashing children. A European court overturned the law on appeal though many similar efforts have gone uncontested in the country since, RIA Novosti said.