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World News

First victims of Russian ban on evangelism

by Antony Bushfield

In July the country passed legislation banning the public from discussing their faith outside of churches and other designated places.

The rules were contained in anti-terror laws and make it illegal to preach, teach or share faith outside state-controlled settings.

Donald Ossewaarde, a Baptist minister, was working in the city of Oryol, about 360 kilometres south-southwest of Moscow when he was visited by police.

They accused him of "unlawfully conducting missionary activity" by having Bible meetings at his home.

Mr Ossewaarde, pictured above with his wife Ruth, was fined £550 after being advised by a state lawyer to plead guilty and not appeal.

A statement from his personal legal team, SCLJ attorneys, said: "The problem is not the fine but the fact that the court decided that Donald's exercise of his right to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ according to his beliefs is an illegal action.

"Donald was arrested in his own home, where policemen came to establish the fact that a group was meeting with him for prayer and Bible reading, which they say is illegal.

"In court, Donald was also accused of posting notices in public places, inviting anyone interested in studying the Scriptures to turn him for help."

Mr Ossewaarde's family have fled the country and returned to the US in fear of their safety.

He has remained in Russia to appeal against the fine and conviction.

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