MEPs condemn ‘persecution’ of religious groups in Russia

The Parliament  [European Parliament]

By Martin Banks – 17th July 2012

[From the editors: we just recently became aware of this article that was published in July.]

Twenty MEPs have signed a petition condemning the alleged “mistreatment” of religious minorities in Russia.

The petition calls on the Russian authorities to “respect the rule of law” and guarantee a “peaceful” environment for such groups.

To coincide with the petition, Belgian-based supporters of Falun Gong, a Chinese meditation practice, staged a demonstration outside parliament.

Organisers claim that Falun Gong followers have faced “persecution” and face “anti-extremism” legislation in Russia.

They say that in doing so, Moscow is endorsing a similar policy by the Chinese authorities.

The petition has been signed by a cross section of MEPs, including Edward McMillan-Scott, a vice president of parliament, Michael Gahler, a German EPP deputy, Werner Schulz, deputy chairman of parliament’s Russia delegation, and deputy Greens leader Raul Romeva Rueda.

It states, “We condemn the Chinese regime’s export of its persecution and human rights violations beyond its borders, by pressuring other countries, like Russia, to follow its policy to suppress innocent Falun Gong practitioners.

“We urge the Chinese regime to stop such behaviour and call on the Russian authorities to respect the rule of law and guarantee Falun Gong practitioners in Russia the fundamental rights granted by the Russian constitution so that they can have a peaceful environment to follow their belief.”

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the protestors told this website, “For several years, the Russian authorities have been trying to suppress law-obeying Falun Gong practitioners in Russia.

“This is under the request and pressure of the Chinese regime, which illegally persecutes Falun Gong which is a peaceful Chinese traditional meditation practice since July 1999.

“Russian authorities have banned Falun Gong related materials since 2008, through a court verdict. This law is also used to target other religious groups in Russia, as well as Russian human rights activists and independent journalists.”

He said the Russian authorities have banned various Falun Gong activities in Russia under the treaty on “Being good neighbours, friendship and cooperation between the Russian federation and the PRC.”

This was signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin and the former president of China, Jiang Zemin, in 2001.

Several Russian human rights activists and winners of parliament’s Sakharov Prize have sent letters to MEPs to urge Russian authorities to stop the “unlawful harassment” of Falun Gong in Russia and “guarantee a fair trial” to its followers.

Original Article