15 October 2018, 17:56
Court throws out Pentecostals' suit seeking agreement with penitentiary service on prison visits in Astrakhan
Moscow, October 15, Interfax - Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky District Court has declined the request of the Central Religious Organization of God's Assembly (Pentecostals) for an agreement with the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service on prison visits in Astrakhan and the Astrakhan Region, an Interfax correspondent reported from the courtroom.
"The court rules to decline the lawsuit filed by the Central Religious Organization of God's Assembly against the Federal Penitentiary Service," Judge Yelena Perepechina read from the decision on Monday.
The Pentecostals asked the court to obligate the Federal Penitentiary Service to sign an agreement for visits to penal colonies and corrective establishments in Astrakhan and the Astrakhan Region, including penal colonies for minors. Such an agreement was severed by the Federal Penitentiary Service in 2017. However, according to Norair Agabekyan, a representative of the religious organization, the previous agreement with signed with a different Pentecostal organization.
"The Federal Penitentiary Service's actions are aimed at barring the clergy of the Evangelical Pentecostal Church from penal colonies. Convicts are asking [the clergy] to come to spiritually care about them. There is no reason the agreement should not be signed," Agabekyan said.
Federal Penitentiary Service branches are saying that local religious organizations need to have agreements with the agency, he said.
A Federal Penitentiary Service official spoke out against an agreement with the religious organization.
"If a member of the Evangelical Pentecostal Church is in a penitentiary establishment, he should write to the administration of the establishment. In this situation, the administration is obligated to invite a clergyman of this denomination for a ritual. According to statistics, 522 people call themselves members of the Pentecostal church, which is 0.009 of all inmates. The Federal Penitentiary Service objects to signing such an agreement," the official said.
Central Religious Organization of God's Assembly can turn to territorial bodies to sign such agreement, he said.
Agabekyan told the court that if the inmate writes an application, a clergyman from an organization with which an agreement has been signed will be provided.
The Federal Penitentiary Service official said Article 14 of the Russian Penal Code (on inmates' freedom of conscience and freedom of religion) does not require the agency to sign agreements with all existing religious organizations.