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Probe launched into reports that Jehovah's Witnesses followers were tortured in Siberia

Earlier, the ombudsman received messages from relatives of the religious organization’s members detained in Surgut

KHANTY-MANSIYSK, February 22. /TASS/. Investigators in the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Region - Yugra have launched a probe into media rumors several detained followers of Jehovah’s Witnesses (recognized extremist in Russia) had been tortured, the press-service of the Investigative Committee’s regional office told TASS on Friday.

Earlier, Jehovah’s Witnesses said on their website that after searches on February 15 its followers were brought to the Investigative Committee building, where they allegedly had their hands bound with duct tape, beaten up, stripped naked and tortured with electric shock. Several people were reportedly injured and complained to watchdog officials.

"We’ve received no messages from Jehovah’s Witnesses, but we’ve decided to launch our own probe," the spokesman for the regional IC office has said.

The office of Yugra’s human rights commissioner has told TASS that ombudsman Natalya Strebkova has begun her own investigation. Earlier she received messages from relatives of the religious organization’s members detained in Surgut.

"Yugra’s ombudsman has received messages from relatives of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ followers, but none of the organization’s members has filed any complaints. The ombudsman has begun an inquiry of her own. She will meet with Yugra’s prosecutor Yevgeny Botvinkin," the source said, adding that early next week Strebkova would meet with the detained.

Investigators have opened a criminal case against three members of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Surgut under Part 2 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code (organization of an extremist organization’s activities). They are reported to have attended secret meetings, distributed outlawed books and recruited new members. Surgut is a second city in the autonomous region where law enforcers have exposed a cell of Jehovah’s Witnesses in February. On February 7 a local cell of Jehovah’s witnesses was eliminated in Urai.