The United States on Tuesday banned the entry of two Russian officials for allegedly torturing Jehovah’s Witnesses in custody as Moscow wages a crackdown against the religious group.
The State Department said that the officials in the western Siberian city of Surgut supervised interrogations on February 15 in which at least seven Jehovah’s Witnesses were subjected to suffocation, electric shocks and severe beatings.
The State Department said that the two officials, Vladimir Petrovich Yermolayev and Stepan Vladimirovich Tkach, and their immediate families would be barred from entering the United States.
“Russia should end its unjust campaign against the Jehovah’s Witnesses and immediately release the over 200 individuals it currently has imprisoned for exercising their freedom of religion or belief,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
Russia outlawed the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017, calling them an extremist organization.
Founded in the United States in the late 19th century, the non-violent movement has often faced problems for members’ proselytization and refusal to salute state symbols such as flags.
A Russian court in May upheld a six-year jail sentence for a Danish Jehovah’s Witness, in the first conviction since the 2017 ban.
© 2019 AFP
Trump blasted by former White House ethics chief for attacking his own FBI director
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump lashed out at FBI director Christopher Wray on Twitter for endorsing DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz's report debunking the Republican claim that the FBI "spied" on Trump's 2016 campaign. "The current director," tweeted Trump, will "never be able to fix" the "badly broken" FBI.
Trump's remark, and possible threat to Wray's job, drew outrage from former White House ethics official Walter Shaub:
The history books will note that he fired not only an FBI Director but also an Attorney General for allowing an investigation of his campaign. Now he's attacking another FBI Director for not being supporting of conspiracy theories about that investigation. https://t.co/6pqjShuP8k
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