Name: Ivan Matsitsky
Background: Leader of Scientology religious group in St. Petersburg, born in 1975. Scientology is a relatively new religion in Russia. He is one of the earliest members of the Church in Russia and has been a Scientologist for over 25 years.
Reason for his arrest: On June 6, 2017, FSB police and SWAT teams raided the Scientology religious group in St. Petersburg and arrested several people including Ivan. Ivan’s house was also raided. Ivan was charged with “running a business without a license” after the Russian Government refused to register the St. Petersburg Church as a religious organization, despite being ordered to do so by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Ivan has also been charged with “extremism” for simply practicing his religion.
His attorneys have filed appeals contesting the pretrial detention on the grounds that his imprisonment constituted arbitrary deprivation of liberty in violation of Article 5 of the European Human Rights Convention, as well as violations of the right to freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of association under Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Convention.
Ivan has been mistreated in detention in violation of Russian law. He was placed in a cell with an Islamic terrorist and later placed with a murderer. Ivan was subjected to open windows during the Russian winter and other torments until media exposure of the abuses led to his being transferred to a regulated prison environment. Documents released to defense counsel contained FSB memos referencing the use of “electronic encouragement” (i.e. electric shock torture) on witnesses.
Appeals hearings have been held regularly before the Presidium of the St. Petersburg City Court. On August 2, 2017, the Presidium upheld the continued pretrial imprisonment of Ivan Matsitskiy and extensions have repeatedly been approved for 20 months despite the fact that 12 months is the maximum allowed period of pre-trial detention for the types of crimes imputed to I.V. Matsitsky, under Russian law. The court has prolonged his detention over the limit set by the law in hearings on 1 June 2018; 16 October 2018; 18 February 2019.
Ivan was allowed no visitors except attorneys for over a year. Recently his wife was finally allowed to visit.
If convicted, he faces 6-10 years in prison for practicing his religious beliefs.
Current Status as of February 2020:
- LATEST Feb 12, 2020: A small court in St. Petersburg agreed to try the case involving Ivan Matsitsky and four other Scientologists for “organization of an extremist society, incitement of hatred or enmity, violation of human dignity, and illegal business operations.”
- In November 2019, Matsitsky was released from pre-trial detention.