Photo: Felix Makhammadiyev

Discrimination

Persecution Sinks to a New Level: Feliks Makhammadiyev Became the First of Jehovah's Witnesses Forced to Stateless-Person Status

Saratov Region,   Orenburg Region

On May 8, 2020, it was learned that Russian citizenship of Saratov resident Feliks Makhammadiyev, who had suffered a brutal beating in a colony of Orenburg, was annulled after his 18 years of living legally in this country. In fact, Russia violates his fundamental right to citizenship, which is entrenched in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Saratov Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs notified the family about the cancellation of Mahammadiev's admission to Russian citizenship. The document was signed on April 17, 2020 by the head of the department Alexei Zelepukin. The formal reason is the ridiculous verdict on the recognition of the peaceful law-abiding Felix Makhammadiyev guilty under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation only because of his religion.

Felix Makhammadiev was born into a family of law enforcement officers in Uzbekistan. As a minor, he moved to Saratov with his mother. Here Felix became a citizen of Russia - this is his only citizenship. Here Felix started a family with a Russian citizen Evgenia Lagunova.

The right to a nationality is fundamental and is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. "States should take measures to prevent statelessness by granting their citizenship to persons who would otherwise be stateless," the website of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says.

"It's a shock for Felix and me. After he was informed of the decision, he could not come to his senses for several minutes," Evgenia Lagunova said anxiously after a telephone conversation with her husband.- Now there is continuous uncertainty: how will this decision affect the future of our family? Will Felix be able to stay in the country after his release, or will we be separated again for a long time?"

"Felix Makhammadiev had not yet had time to recover from the beatings in the colony and urgent surgery, as another blow followed," said Yaroslav Sivulsky, a representative of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, "The termination of his citizenship after 18 years of law-abiding residence in Russia is a direct result of unfair criminal prosecution for his religious beliefs."

"Entire families of our fellow believers abandon everything and, in order to save their children, flee abroad to ask for political asylum," the wives of citizens arrested for their faith wrote in a collective letter. Refugees are active civilians of various professions who paid taxes, supporting the economy. "If earlier it was about the fact that Russia is not trying to keep them, now it simply expels them on religious grounds. Moreover, this is happening despite the official position of the president, who was perplexed about the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses," notes Yaroslav Sivulsky.

The vague wording of Russian legislation on extremism has been the subject of criticism by legal scholars and human rights activists both in Russia and abroad. According to experts, the term “extremism” is inapplicable to the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses, and their persecution must be stopped immediately.

Case of Bazhenov and Others in Saratov

Case history
In September 2019, Judge Dmitry Larin immediately sent 6 Saratov residents to prison for a term of 2 to 3.5 years just for reading the Bible, singing songs and praying. Since 2017, security forces have been conducting covert surveillance of believers. In the summer of 2018, their homes were searched with banned literature planted. While the investigation was underway, they had to go to a pre-trial detention center, under house arrest and under recognizance not to leave. A year later, despite the absence of victims in the case, the believers were found guilty. Upon arrival at the Orenburg colony, 5 out of 6 convicted believers were beaten by the staff of the institution. Mahammadiev was hospitalized, and the rest were placed in a punishment cell for a while. Saratov prisoners of conscience have mastered various professions in prison. In May 2020, Mahammadiev and Bazhenov were stripped of their Russian citizenship and, after their release, deported from Russia. All 6 believers have already served their sentences. In September 2022, the cassation court dismissed the complaint, and the verdict and the appellate ruling were unchanged.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Saratov Region
Locality:
Saratov
Suspected of:
according to the investigation, together with others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as “organising the activity of an extremist organisation” (with reference to the decision of the Russian Supreme Court on the liquidation of all 396 registered organisations of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Court case number:
11807630001000037
Initiated:
June 9, 2018
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Investigative Department of the Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Saratov Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-333/2019
Background