Evangelical Baptists accuse Sumy police of torture
On 20 April members of the Church of Evangelical Baptists and the Defence League human rights NGO held a picket outside the Zarichny Police Station. Among the picketers were Olena and Roman Rozmayiti. The couple says that that on 11 April they were attacked by three men who took their mobile phones away and, without identifying themselves, took them to the Zarichny Police Station.
There, they allege, from 13.00 to ten at night attempts were made to force them to confess to stealing gold and they were accused of drug and alcohol abuse. This, they say, was accompanied by foul abuse, threats of physical reprisals and blows to the head, ears, needs, knuckles and neck.
Olena says that when she told the police that she had stolen nothing, that she was a Christian and member of the Church of Evangelical Baptists, the officers began calling them “sectarians” and shouting that the “sect” was forcing them to steal, with the gold being for it.
The couple say that in spite of threats from the police officers, they plan to take the case to the end. They are outraged not just by the methods used, but by the way the officers ridiculed the Church.
The Head of the Sumy Regional Association of Churches of Evangelical Baptists told RISU [the Religious Information Service of Ukraine] that he was aware of the case and that members of the Church were appalled by the police officers’ actions. He said that they had written a complaint to the City Prosecutor’s Office demanding that they look into the situation and take appropriate measures. He suggests that such behaviour raises questions as to whether the officers should continue to work in the police force.
Spokesperson for the Sumy Regional Police, Elvira Bihanova denied that the couple’s religion had anything to do with why the two had been “invited for a conversation at the police station”. She says that they were suspected of having stolen gold from a flat where they were carrying out repairs, and that it was the flat’s owner who suspected them.
She said that the case is under the personal control of the head of the Sumy Regional Police Department.