The following press statement was delivered by Heather Nauert
State Department spokesperson, on June 18.
The United States is deeply concerned by the growing number of individuals – now more than 150 – identified by credible human rights organizations as political and religious prisoners held by the government of the Russian Federation.
We are especially concerned about the welfare of four Ukrainians unjustly imprisoned who are currently on hunger strike – Oleh Sentsov, Stanislav Klykh, Oleksandr Shumkov and Volodymyr Balukh. We are likewise troubled by the case of Oyub Titiyev, a human rights activist prosecuted on trumped-up drug charges in Chechnya, whose pre-trial detention was recently extended. In retaliation for peaceful religious practice, Russian authorities have detained Jehovah’s Witness Dennis Christensen without trial since May 2017. Five Church of Scientology leaders have also been subjected to detention without trial since June 2017, as well as over a dozen Muslim followers of Turkish theologian Said Nursi.
We call on Russia to release all those identified as political or religious prisoners immediately and cease its use of the legal system to suppress dissent and peaceful religious practice. The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve equal treatment under the law and the ability to exercise their rights without fear of retribution.