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US missionary loses evangelism appeal in Russia

by Hannah Tooley

Baptist minister Donald Ossewaarde has been charged under Russia's Yarovaya Law, or anti-terror law, of "unlawfully conducting missionary activity" by having Bible meetings at his home.

He was working in the city of Oryol, southwest of Moscow, when he was visited by police.

The pastor was fined £477 (40,000 roubles) for conducting "rituals and ceremonies" associated with religious activities without proper permission.

On his blog he wrote: "There were no TV journalists this time, but there were more people from local evangelical churches who came to watch.

"Six people from our Bible study group were there."

He had three lawyers from Moscow and told the judge that he had read the law carefully, saying: "Even I was able to understand that my activity does not meet this definition, so I have not broken any laws.

"I am exercising the rights guaranteed by the constitution and the laws of the Russian Federation."

Earlier in the month he became the first American person to be fined under the Yarovaya laws.

His blog recounted how the "police also introduced new evidence, which should have been presented from the very beginning.

"They brought in documents to show I am affiliated with BIMI of Chattanooga, Tennessee, which they said was further proof that I was acting as a foreign agent, representing a foreign religious organisation.

"My lawyer and I were given time to examine the documents, and we explained to the court that BIMI is a service organization that collects my donations, forwards them to me, and provides other support services," he said he is not an employee of BIMI and does not follow that teaching.

Now his case will be taken to the next level of appeal.

"Obviously, this is a disappointment," he wrote.

"I was hoping to wrap things up here and return to my family as soon as possible, but the issue is an important one, and duty demands that I press the case as far as I can."

He said he was "overwhelmed at the feedback I am getting from people in many countries who are following the case and praying for us."

He has asked supporters to continue to pray for him.

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