Court Says Missionary Expelled Illegally

Europe's top human rights court has ordered Russia to pay several thousand euros to a U.S. missionary expelled on national security grounds in 2002.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg found that Russia had violated its obligations to protect religious freedom when it expelled Patrick Nolan, a missionary with Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, as a threat to national security on June 22, 2002, Nolan's lawyers said Saturday.

"Mr. Nolan, who had lived in Russia for nearly eight years, was refused re-entry into Russia in 2002 following a short trip abroad, notwithstanding the fact that he possessed a valid entry visa and his 10-month-old child, of whom he was the sole custodial parent, remained on Russian soil," his lawyers said in an e-mailed statement.

The court on Thursday awarded Nolan damages of 7,000 euros ($9,030), according to a statement on its web site.

The court also found that Russia was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights for separating him for 10 months from his infant son, imprisoning him overnight at the airport when he returned to Russia from a trip to Cyprus, deporting him before he could seek a review of his case and refusing to disclose a report by the Federal Security Service that served as the basis for his expulsion.

No explanation for the expulsion was initially provided. The expulsion separated Nolan from his son, who stayed in Russia with a nanny. The father and son were united in April 2003 in Ukraine, where the nanny brought the child.

Nolan, currently living in Georgia, applied to the Strasbourg court in December 2004.

Nolan arrived in Russia in 1994 at the invitation of the church to assist its activities in the country. He lived primarily in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia, where he worked with local branches of two social organizations associated with the church, the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification and the Youth Federation for World Peace. In August 2001, a Rostov-on-Don court ordered the closure of the Rostov branch of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, citing the violation of registration rules. Two months later, local authorities terminated Nolan's registration because the organization had been dissolved. Nolan renewed his visa in another city.

No one was available for comment at the Moscow office of the Association of Christian Unification Churches on Friday afternoon, said a woman who answered the phone.

Nolan's lawyers noted that his expulsion followed amendments to Russia's national security doctrine identifying foreign religious organizations and missionaries as a "negative influence" threatening Russia's "spiritual and moral heritage."

In 1999, Moscow authorities refused to register a venerable international Christian movement, the Salvation Army, and in November 2000 the Moscow City Court ruled that the Salvation Army was plotting the overthrow of the government. In October 2006, the Strasbourg court ruled that Russia had violated the Salvation Army's rights and awarded the organization 10,000 euros.