RUSSIA: 16 Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced to prison terms since 1 January and behind bars
Six more Jehovah’s Witnesses already sentenced to heavy prison terms in June
HRWF (04.06.2021) – As of 17 May 2021, JW.ORG reported that 59 Jehovah’s Witnesses were in pretrial detention or sentenced to prison, 34 were under house arrest, 214 were restricted from travelling and 419 more cases were under investigation but six more Jehovah’s Witnesses were already sentenced to heavy prison terms on 1 and 3 June.
Convicted, sentenced to prison in 2021
10.02.2021: Aleksandr Ivshin, 7.5 years (prison, lost appeal)
24.02.2021: Roman Baranovskiy, 6 years (prison, lost appeal)
24.02.2021: Valentina Baranovskaya, 2 years (prison, lost appeal)
29.03.2021: Viktor Stashevskiy, 6.5 years (pretrial facility, awaiting appeal)
30.03.2021: Oleg Danilov, 3 years (prison, lost appeal)
06.04.2021: Aleksandr Shcherbina, 3 years (pretrial facility, awaiting appeal)
20.05.2021: Rustam Seidkuliev, 2.5 years (pretrial facility, awaiting appeal)
28.05.2021: Anastasiya Polyakova 2.5 years – Gaukhar Bektemirova, 2 years and 3 months – Dinara Dyusekeyeva, 2 years.
01.06.2021: Ekaterina Pegasheva, 6.5 years (prison)
03.06.2021: Andrei Stupnikov, 6 years (prison)
03.06.2021: Andrei Andreyev, Andrei Ryshkov, Armen Bagratyan, and Alevtina Bagratyan (from 2 to 4.5 years in prison)
1 June: Russian Jehovah’s Witness found guilty of ‘extremism’
By RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service
RFE/ RL (01.06.2021) – https://bit.ly/3z1Y1AP – A Jehovah’s Witness in the western Russian republic of Mari El has been found guilty of extremism and given a suspended 6 1/2 year prison sentence.
Ekaterina Pegasheva, who was convicted by the Gornomariskiy district court on June 1, denied the charge and vowed to appeal the ruling.
“The only victims in this criminal case are me, my mother, [and] my elderly sick bedridden grandmother. We have suffered significant damage — property, physical, emotional, mental, as well as damage to our reputation,” Pegasheva told the court before the verdict was issued.
“I am a law-abiding citizen of the Russian Federation. I did not call for violence. My conscience is clear before God, before the state, and before the people.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses is a Christian denomination with an estimated 175,000 followers in Russia. In 2017, Russia’s Supreme Court declared the group an extremist organization.
Since then, Russian law enforcement has raided the homes of more than 1,300 worshippers and over 400 have been either charged or convicted of extremism in a brutal crackdown that has swept up followers aged 19 to 90.
The European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses estimates that between 5,000 to 10,000 of its members have fled Russia since the ban came into force.
The case against Pegasheva was opened in September 2019. According to the authorities, Pegasheva continued to preach her brand of Christianity despite the ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In October 2019, police searched her home in Yoshkar-Ola, seizing books, videos, electronic devices, personal letters, and other documents. Her mother’s home in Pirogovo, in the Kirov region, was also searched.
Pegasheva was held for more than four months in pretrial detention before spending more than a year under house arrest.
3 June: Russia’s crackdown on Jehovah’s Witnesses continues, with at least seven more sentenced
RFE/ RL (03.06.2021) – https://bit.ly/3vQ4NrD – At least seven Jehovah’s Witnesses have been handed prison terms in Russia amid a continuing crackdown on the religious group, which was banned in the country in 2017.
Representatives of Jehovah’s Witnesses informed RFE/RL that a court in Russia’s Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk sentenced Andrei Stupnikov to six years in prison on June 3 after finding him guilty of the organization of activities of an extremist organization.
Stupnikov was arrested three years ago. He was initially kept in a detention center and later transferred to house arrest.
Stupnikov rejected the charge, insisting that the case against him was launched because of his religious views.
According to the religious group, a court in Russia’s western city of Kursk on June 3 sentenced four other members — Andrei Andreyev, Andrei Ryshkov, Armen Bagratyan, and Alevtina Bagratyan — to prison terms of between two years and 4 1/2 years. One more follower of the faith, Aleksandr Vospitanyuk, received a suspended sentence. All five were found guilty of organizing or taking part in the activities of an extremist group.
A day earlier, a court in the Siberian city of Minusinsk fined Dmitry Maslov 450,000 rubles ($6,100) for taking part in the activities of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, while a court in the Far Eastern city of Zeya handed a suspended two-year prison term to 78-year-old Vasily Reznichenko on the same charge.