Volyn Police lawlessness against Hare Krishna devotees



Horokhiv police officers detained five men and held them in a police station for five hours, insulting them, taking their fingerprints. If this were not enough, the head of the police station even tried to hit one of them.

Four men: Yaroslav Hnatyuk, Viktor Shevchenko from Lutsk, Oleh Shevchenko from Kyiv and Valery Sorochynsky from Lviv are members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and travel around different cities, singing devotional songs (presumably the Hare Krishna mantra).  They say that the local residents are generally friendly and if there is any problem, they do not get into conflict but simply get up and move on.  They stress that they respect each person’s rights to their beliefs.

On 16 July, together with a guest from St. Petersburg, they decided to visit Horokhiv. They had been singing on the street and were planning to move on when a woman came up and asked to see their permit to sing in her city.  They asked if she was the Mayor of the city and she replied that she was higher than the Mayor.  She proved to the Head of the Horokhiv District Administration and had arrived together with a priest who claimed that his church was officially registered and referred to the Hare Krishna devotees very dismissively.

By this stage a police officer had turned up and demanded to check their documents. Since they had no pockets, these were not with them.  Yaroslav Hnatyuk says that he went to get his driving licence and after that they were taken to the police station. He says that they were greeted with a barrage of foul abuse from the deputy head of the station. Yaroslav Hnatyuk says that without asking any questions about why they’d come, he began threatening to imprison them, and also jeering at their clothes. They say that they remained very polite, but were told that they were “clowns in skirts”.

Then the head of the station appeared and he, they say, was even more aggressive, and pretty inebriated. Oleh Shevchenko recounts that though he did absolutely nothing to provoke the man, the police head clearly didn’t take to him and lashed out. Oleh says that had he not ducked the blow would have got him. At that point the deputy began calming his boss down, and they were taken to have their fingerprints taken.  The newspaper Volyn Times which initially reported the incident stresses that there need to be grounds for taking people’s fingerprints and there were none.

Ihor Levchuk, Head of the Committee for Human Rights Protection and Fighting Corruption, says that the men turned to the Committee for legal support and that a letter has been sent to the Department for Internal Security of the Volyn Regional MIA and the regional Prosecutor.

The newspaper cites various laws and the Constitution to demonstrate how inadmissible the police officers’ behaviour was. 

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