Arbitrary Detention of Two Members of Minority Religion

MOLDOVA: New court hearing of Calestru and Savencov planned next Tuesday

Their wives hope that their pre-trial detention will not be extended again and they will be released

Moldova Prison

Family members wait for hours outside the prison in Moldova to bring food to their loved ones behind bars.

Chișinău/Moldova, 21.01.2016 (HRWF) – On 26th January, there will be a new court hearing about whether or not the pre-trial detention of Mihai Calestru and Oleg Savencov will be extended. The two men are members of the Unification Church who were arrested on false charges (human trafficking) on 30th October 2015.

Yesterday, the wives of the prisoners went to the prison to bring them food. They told HRWF that, “their daily menu is porridge in the morning and in the evening. For lunch they just get clear soup (almost water) and it has a bad taste. That is why relatives of the prisoners have to feed them. We are only allowed to pass food once a week. People bring 25-30 kg per week in average. The procedure is burdensome. First we must submit a request in three copies in which we must list the content of the bag. Then we have to wait for our turn until we are called. It means usually 3 to 6 hours waiting outside whatever the weather and for the moment it is -15°C. Once people submit their request, they cannot leave because they must also give their identity card.” (See picture above)

On Tuesday, representatives of Human Rights Without Frontiers Int’l (HRWF) and Forum on Religious Freedom/ Europe (FOREF) held a press conference in Chisinau and asked Oleg Savencov and Mihai Calestru to be “immediately and unconditionally released.” A representative of the local branch of Amnesty International, who was also a former prosecutor in Moldova, commented on the case during the press conference and confirmed that it was unfounded.

The Prosecutor’s allegation against the two men is deeply flawed. It claims that they established the Unification Church in Moldova in 2008 as an “organized criminal group.” One of the defendants, Oleg Savencov, is a Ukrainian citizen who entered Moldova only in 2014. Mihai Calestru was never a Church leader. “Moldova’s anti-trafficking legislation was not meant to be instrumentalized against peaceful religious organizations,” said Dr Aaron Rhodes, President of the Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe. If convicted of trafficking under Article 165, Oleg Savencov and Mihai Calestru face jail terms of 6 to 12 years.

Last year, the movement of Falun Gong was banned by a court on the basis of a law against extremism that is now reviewed by the Constitutional Court of Moldova.


 

Press Release:
Savencov and Calestru must be released immediately and unconditionally!

by HRWF & FOREF Europe

 

19-01-2016 Press Conference

Press Conference by HRWF Int’l and FOREF Europe in Chisenau, Moldova (January 19, 2016). Click on Image to see video recording.

Chișinău/Moldova, 19.01.2016 (HRWF) – Oleg Savencov and Mihai Calestru, two members of the Unification Church who are in pre-trial detention in Moldova charged with trafficking in human beings, should be “immediately and unconditionally released,” according to Human Rights Without Frontiers and the Forum for Religious Freedom- Europe, two international human rights organizations that have investigated the charges.

The two men were jailed on 30 October 2015, and remain in detention. If convicted of trafficking under Article 165, they face jail terms of 6 to 12 years.

“Oleg Savencov and Mihai Calestru have not committed the crimes with which they are charged,” according to Willy Fautre, Executive Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers. “The charges against them are based solely on accusations by dissatisfied members of the Unification Church who denounced alleged illegal activities to the authorities. Moreover, we have found no evidence of an objective investigation in this case,” he said.

The Prosecutor’s allegation against the two men is deeply flawed. It claims that they established the Unification Church in Moldova in 2008 as an “organized criminal group.” One of the defendants, Oleg Savencov, is a Ukrainian citizen who entered Moldova only in 2014. Mihai Calestru was never a Church leader.

“Moldova’s anti-trafficking legislation was not meant to be instrumentalized against peaceful religious organizations,” said Dr Aaron Rhodes, President of the Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe. “It will be a travesty of justice if the law is misused for private reasons, and it will threaten the freedom of religion in Moldova and in Europe,” Rhodes said.

The two international human rights groups said they would bring the case to the attention of authorities in the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. (OSCE), as well as national governments and the civil society human rights community. They said a conviction would not only be harmful to the defendants and their families and the Unification Church, but to other religious movements and to the image of Moldova.

http://www.hrwf.eu –  http://foref-europe.org

For more information, please contact Dr. Aaron Rhodes
+49 170 323 8314. aaronarhodes@gmail.com

About forefeurope

Human Rights Activist
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