MOSCOW (AP) — A prominent Russian human rights activist is calling on Russia's Investigative Committee to open a criminal case in the alleged abuse of Jehovah's Witnesses adherents by investigators.

The religious denomination, which is banned in Russia, says seven of its believers were beaten, shocked and suffocated during interrogation in February at the Investigative Committee office in the city of Surgut.

The committee's regional office on Wednesday denied that the injuries were inflicted during interrogation.

Lev Ponomarev, head of the For Human Rights organization, told a news conference Thursday that he would push for a criminal case.

The religion's headquarters in the United States meanwhile said that police have raided the homes of Russian members this week in the cities of Chelyabinsk and Kirov.