Russia: Seven years in prison for four Jehovah’s witnesses for extremism

A Russian  court  has sentenced four  Jehovah‘s Witnesses to seven years  in prison   each   for coordinating  extremist activities , according to the religious group’s spokesman .

Religious life in Russia is determined by the Orthodox Church, which is supported by Putin, resulting in Jehovah’s Witnesses being treated as a “totalitarian heresy”.

”  Russia  continues to shamelessly abuse  its anti – extremism  laws to ban,  imprison  and at times abuse and torture  Jehovah’s  Witnesses ,  spokesman  Jarrod  Lopez told Reuters by email.

Aram  Danielian ,  Denis  Kuzyanin,  Sergey Poloshenko  and  Nikolai Vasiliev  were indicted based on  secret recordings of church services  and  private conversations  about their faith, as well as “electronic evidence” that, according to Lopez  was  placed on a computer belonging to a accused by an  “FSB technician” during an investigation.

Lopez added that those convicted are expected to appeal the  decision.

In another case, a  woman  in the nearby city of  Tolyatti  was sentenced to  two years of hard labor  on the same charge on Jan. 24, the same day the four men were sentenced, according to the religious group’s Russian website.

Since 2017

 Russia’s  Supreme  Court  in  2017  labeled  Jehovah’s Witnesses an ” extremist organization ,” disbanding and banning some  400 branches of the religious group across the country.

Since then raids,  interrogations  and  imprisonments of  followers of the religious group, which numbered about  175,000 active believers  at the time it  was  outlawed  , according to the  Russian website of Jehovah  ‘s Witnesses  , have been carried out systematically in Russia.

Russian officials have in the past denied accusations of  abusing  or  torturing  Jehovah   ‘s  Witnesses .

About  790 members of the religious group  have been criminally charged or are being investigated for their faith, while  147 were convicted last year , Lopez said.

” Russia ‘s legal system   has become a temple that proclaims the  hatred  of  extremism ,” he said.

Religious life in Russia is governed by the Orthodox Church, which is supported by President  Vladimir  Putin . Some  Orthodox priests see Jehovah  ‘s Witnesses   as a “totalitarian sect”.

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