AKHTUBINSK, Russia—On February 17, 2012, the Akhtubinsk District Court, in the southern Volga region of Russia, began hearing a criminal case against Yelena Grigorieva, a 44-year-old mother and grandmother. During the first court session, the prosecutor read aloud the alleged accusation of “Inciting to Hatred or Hostility and the Debasing of Human Dignity.”
Yelena Grigorieva’s attorney, Denis Vladimirov, stated: “The investigation presented several opportunities for the case to be closed and for all the far-fetched charges to be dismissed. Unfortunately, ordinary and peaceful people are being wrongly labeled as criminals.”
This is not the first time that Yelena Grigorieva, a former employee of social and revenue services, has experienced outrageous and undue pressure on the part of law-enforcement agencies. On February 8, 2011, her home was searched. On the same date, five other homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Akhtubinsk were also searched. Then, after some local officials visited Grigorieva’s workplace on February 11, she was forced to quit her job. Gulfira Zakaryayeva, another one of Yelena’s attorneys, reported that she has also been the victim of undue pressure due to her involvement in the case.
Such unjust actions by Russian authorities have been criticized by the European Parliament, which on February 16, 2012, expressed “deep concern about the misuse of anti-extremism legislation involving the illegal implementation of criminal laws against . . . religious minorities such as Jehova’s [sic] Witnesses . . . and the improper banning of their materials on grounds of extremism.”
The court hearing resumed on February 28, 2012, and continues through March.