Baptist pastor from the Ural wilderness was revoked his Russian residence permit, Allegedly "for opposing the Russian Orthodox Church"

Baptist pastor from the Ural wilderness was revoked his Russian residence permit, Allegedly "for opposing the Russian Orthodox Church"

Sverdlovsk Regional Court canceled a residence permit in Russia for 58-year-old German citizen Helmut Beringer, a farmer and pastor of the Baptist community in the small Ural city of Tavda.

Novaya Gazeta reported about Beringer in early November, stating he came to Russia from Germany in 1994 with a humanitarian mission that brought medicines and clothes to the Urals. He stayed, got married and they had four children.

Last year, Beringer handed out brochures for the FIFA World Cup, published by the Russian UECB. The brochures spoke mostly of the World Cup, but the back cover indicated the publisher was a religious organization. He handed one of the brochures to an eleven-year-old girl. Her parents, seeing the publisher, turned to the prosecutor's office. The prosecutor's office and court in Tavda found that Beringer “violated the rules of missionary activity.” Beringer was first fined 30,000 rubles (about $500), and then the Ministry of Internal Affairs decided to cancel his residence permit. In the case of Beringer’s denying his residence permit, the police said that they received materials from the FSB (Russian Secret Police) that he “advocates forcibly changing the constitutional system of the Russian Federation” and “calls for opposition to the Russian Orthodox Church”. At the same time, there was no factual evidence disclosed by security forces, but merely said it was a “state secret.”

At the “trial”, Beringer's lawyer, a member of the presidential Human Rights Council, Vladimir Ryakhovsky, emphasized that the secrecy of the charges deprives Helmut of the right to defense. “We don’t understand why we should defend ourselves,” said the lawyer. Let’s take a confession of non-disclosure of state secrets from all participants in the process, and we will nevertheless be charged with specific charges: where, when, under what circumstances did my client advocate a violent change in the constitutional system, how did he call for “opposing the Russian Orthodox Church”?

Ryakhovsky noted that the court in Tavda in its decision, did not indicate any information from the FSB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which served as the basis for the deprivation of Beringer's residence permit, "being outside the judicial control zone."

- According to the Constitution, everyone is guaranteed the right to judicial protection of their own interests. How can it be that the court says: “Evaluation of the FSB’s information is beyond our powers”?

Helmut Beringer himself at the trial said that he also did not understand what exactly he was accused of.

- They say to me that I “coerced others to oppose the Russian Orthodox Church.” But yesterday I was at the monastery Father in Tavda, and asked him: “Am I opposing you? Am I bothering you?” He was very surprised. He said that he did not know anything about my business, that although we pray in different ways to God, he has no offense with me. “Someone wants to bring a quarrel between us,” he said.

Beringer told the court that he has four children, two of whom are in school in Tavda.

- Children hardly speak German, and my wife is not a German citizen. If you decide now that I must leave Russia, I will have to part with my family, and I don’t know when we will be able to reunite, ”Beringer said.

Vladimir Ryakhovsky then emphasized that the Interior Ministry was “cunning” when they said that canceling a residence permit does not entail a ban on entry into the Russian Federation.

- Yet, no one will give a visa to a person “posing a threat to the security of the Russian Federation”.

Representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the FSB, at the request of the court to voice their position, only stated that "they have already submitted it in writing."

The “meeting” took five minutes. Judge Tatyana Soboleva read out the decision: to deprive Helmut Beringer of a residence permit in the Russian Federation. He must leave Russia within 15 days.

“I know hundreds of people who want to leave Russia to go to Germany.” But he himself wanted to stay in Tavda, Beringer said after the meeting through tears.

Representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the FSB left the courthouse without giving any comments.

Source: Novaya Gazeta

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