SERVICE IN “TRANSFIGURATION” GOD’S CHURCH IN GOMEL INTERRUPTED BY SPECIAL PURPOSE POLICE UNIT
Administrative offense reports were drawn up by police officers against Sergei Nikolayenko, Pastor of “Transfiguration” God’s Church, and five members of the congregation who are now forced to sign them.
On 31 May the legitimately rented premises of the temple where a Sunday service had been taking place were raided by the officers of the special purpose police unit who made a video recording of everyone present. The service was interrupted. The police officers referred to a call allegedly made from public telephone by someone reporting the fact of “the crowd of people holding an unauthorized event here”.
Administrative offense reports were drawn up against Sergei Nikolayenko, Pastor of the Church, and five parishioners, although no one told them what kind of offense they had committed. “Police officers were asking questions like: “Why do you go to this church and not to a normal or correct one?” The people present were subjected to moral coercion; their addresses, phone numbers and personal details were written down. After that everyone was ordered to leave the premises”, — said the Pastor.
Here is what Sergei Nikolayenko also said:
“Administrative offense reports were drawn up against me and the parishioners. However, no relevant explanation was given as to the exercise of our right of defense. Police officers were asking questions that violate the right of the citizens of the Republic of Belarus to the freedom of conscience and religious freedom enshrined in Article 34 of the RB Constitution.
In particular, questions of the following nature were asked: “Why do you go to this church and not to a normal or correct one?” The people present were subjected to moral coercion; their addresses, phone numbers and personal details were written down.
We were ordered to leave the premises and were led out of the building. This caused both moral and material damage to us. Yet, this was not the end.
Next Sunday, on 7 June 2015, I had a phone call from some police officer who failed to introduce himself. He demanded that I come to the police station to sign an administrative offense report, such demand being a gross violation of the law because such report had been drawn up in my absence, no copy of the report had been sent to me, and I had not received any summons to come to the police station in order to familiarize myself with another report of which I had no knowledge at all.
On the next day the same police officer started ringing other parishioners and ordering them to come to an inquiry, this time on the criminal case instituted against Pastor Sergei Nikolayenko. He acted illegally threatening to bring the parishioners to criminal responsibility should they fail to come to the police station. When one of the churchwomen asked about the subject of the inquiry, his answer was: “Why do you go to this church and not to a normal one?” This, again, is a violation of the constitutional norms of the Republic of Belarus.”
“Transfiguration” God’s Church in the city of Gomel was registered in 2005 and re-registered in 2012. There have been no complaints against it on the part of the authorities until this incident.
Pastor Sergei Nikolayenko insists that these actions of the police make up a blatant violation of the constitutional rights of the citizens of the Republic of Belarus and demands that the case is examined as promptly as possible, hoping that all rights and freedoms granted to the citizens of the Republic of Belarus as a rule-of-law state would be observed.