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August 25, 2016 - Publicity
Monday, when I met with my attorneys in Moscow, I asked if it would help or harm the case if we were to take the story to the press and get some publicity. They thought that was a good idea, and they asked me to give them a little time to formulate some advice about the best way to do it.
Tuesday they sent me the following email (which I translated from the Russian). It provides a suggested press release to guide us in any contacts with the press at this time.
Dear brother Donald,
Here's the story in a summary form, which would be helpful to follow in contacts with the press:
On August 14, 2016, a judge of the District Court of the city of Oryol, Russia ruled in a case against Donald Ossewaarde, a United States citizen, who was accused of unlawfully conducting missionary activity. Donald was found guilty and sentenced to pay a fine of 40,000 rubles.
The problem is not the fine, which is about $700, but the fact that the court decided that Donald’s exercise of his right to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ according to his beliefs is an illegal action.
Donald was arrested in his own home, where policemen came to establish the fact that a group was meeting with him for prayer and Bible reading, which they say is illegal. In court, Donald was also accused of posting notices in public places, inviting anyone interested in studying the Scriptures to turn him for help. The Court also ruled that this American, who, according to Russian law, has all the same rights as a Russian citizen, failed to give the authorities written notification when he began his religious group activities.
The court refused to allow time for Donald’s lawyers to come from Moscow for the initial hearing, and then provided a lawyer to him. In a "confidential conversation" after the hearing, this court appointed lawyer advised him to accept the verdict and pay the fine without appeal. Then he said that it would be better for the American to leave the city, because anything might happen to him and his family.
For now, Donald’s family has gone to the USA, but he is prepared to defend his case before the Russian justice system. He is convinced that the law is on his side, and that he is the victim of an improper application of the law, and perhaps xenophobia.
Donald’s attorneys, Vladimir Ryakhovsky and Konstantin Andreev from the law office "Slavic Center for Law and Justice” (http://www.sclj.ru/about/center/) are also confident about the review of Donald’s case. An appeal against the decision of the court has already been filed, and there will be a hearing on the case in the near future.
It's just an outline. Of course, you can say it all in your own words :-)
If you give any interviews, it is better that you send them to us for previous approval. It is better that you direct the press, especially Russian outlets, to communicate with us, your lawyers. With the western press, I think, it won’t be a problem.
In this format, you should try to give this story wide publicity, and extend it through all possible media and friends in social networks.
Victory will be for the Lord and us! :-)
Respectfully, SCLJ attorneys
I would ask all of my friends to think about how you might help to spread this story. After the appeals hearing, we can give more details to the media, but for now we will try to get the story out in this form. You can tell your pastor about this. He might share it with the church, other pastors, and media outlets. Any of us can use whatever contacts we might have in social networks, or other media. Let's spread this story around!
Please use the press release as written on this page. There is a Russian version if anyone has contacts in Russian media.
When I contacted the US embassy on Tuesday to tell me about this case, they were really concerned about the situation. They found that the story had already started appearing in the Russian media, probably due to the efforts of my attorneys.
I am contacting several media outlets to get some attention for this story. I search the web using key words to find news stories that were previously published about this law, Then I contact them and send them the press release. Since they already have shown interest in the subject, they should be interested in following up on this particular case. Publicity will help to keep me safe, and will put pressure on the court to drop the charges.
Here are links to news stories that have already been published. The first of these English language reports is very good.
Forum 18 in Norway
Newsweek Europe edition
Christian Today - another article - third article
Russia Religion news
Crossmap - another article
One News Now
Baptist Press - another article
EWTN Catholic network
Interview on WVGV radio September 7 (audio)
La Gaceta Cristiana (Spanish)
Methodist Church International News (French)
Gospel Prime (Brazil - Portugese)
World Today (Swedish)
The rest of these are from Russian language sources. Your browser probably has an option to translate to English, which produces a very poor translation, but you can get the general idea. If you have the Google translate extension in Chrome, open the article, right click the text, and you will get an option to "Translate to English".
Slavic Center for Law and Justice (my attorneys)
Vedomosti news report
Another article on my attorney's website
MK - a communist paper - Their point of view is biased against me. They say I should consider myself lucky that I got off with just a fine.
Oryol local news - In the comment section, trolls call me a rotten spy. They call for me to be run out of town or burned at the stake.