RUSSIA: Igor Shmidt is the 30th Jehovah’s Witness sentenced to prison in 2021
A court in Crimea sentenced him to 6 years in prison
10.02.2021: Aleksandr Ivshin, 7.5 years
24.02.2021: Roman Baranovskiy, 6 years
24.02.2021: Valentina Baranovskaya, 2 years
29.03.2021: Viktor Stashevskiy, 6.5 years
30.03.2021: Oleg Danilov, 3 years
06.04.2021: Aleksandr Shcherbina, 3 years
20.05.2021: Rustam Seidkuliev, 2.5 years
28.05.2021: Anastasiya Polyakova 2.5 years – Gaukhar Bektemirova, 2.3 years – Dinara Dyusekeyeva, 2 years.
01.06.2021: Ekaterina Pegasheva, 6.5 years
03.06.2021: Andrei Stupnikov, 6 years
03.06.2021: Andrei Andreyev, Andrei Ryshkov, Armen Bagratyan, and Alevtina Bagratyan (from 2 to 4.5 years in prison)
30.06.2021: Dmitri Golik (7 years) and Aleksei Berchuk (8 years)
29.07.2021: Alexander Parkov and Arsen Avanesov (6.5 years) and Vilen Avanesov (6 years)
13.08.2021: Vasiliy Meleshko, 3 years
06.09.2021: Dmitry Sergeyevich Terebilov, 3 years
23.09.2021: Valery Rogozin (6.5 years), Viacheslav Osipov and Denis Peresunko (6.3 years), Igor Egozarian and Sergei Melnik (6 years)
11.10.2021: Vladimir Skachidub (4.2 years)
22.10.2021: Igor Shmidt (6 years)
HRWF (23.10.2021) – On 22 October, a Crimean court sentenced 49-year-old Igor Shmidt to six years in prison under Russia’s Criminal Code 282.2. He was accused of organizing the activities of an extremist organization. Prior to his sentencing, he spent nearly six months in pretrial detention (173 days) and some seven months under house arrest. Amnesty International’s immediate response to today’s ruling is condemning the sentence and calling on Russia to halt the nationwide ban (See below).
Igor Shmidt was born in 1972 in Lariak village (Tyumen region). He has a sister who currently lives abroad. After school, he graduated from a technical school in Nizhnevartovsk. He worked as an individual entrepreneur. In 2001, he moved to Sevastopol.
On 1 October 2020, in Sevastopol, security forces searched at least 9 local residents. The next day, the court sent four of them to jail, including Igor Schmidt. He was accused of organizing the activities of an extremist organization. Igor spent six months in a pre-trial detention center, after which he was transferred to house arrest. In April 2021, the judge of the Gagarinsky District Court of the city of Sevastopol, Lyudmila Tumaykina, began considering his case on the merits. In October 2021, the prosecutor requested 7 years in a general regime colony for Shmidt.
Natalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty International’s Russia researcher, says: “Today’s sentencing of 49-year-old Jehovah’s Witness Igor Shmidt to six years imprisonment, under spurious charges of “organizing activities of an extremist organization,” is another violent blow to freedom of religion in Crimea. Igor Shmidt is not an ‘extremist’ but a peaceful believer prosecuted for practicing his faith. Amnesty International considers him and all Jehovah’s Witnesses as prisoners of conscience, deprived of their right to liberty solely in connection with the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of religion. They must be immediately and unconditionally released and all charges against them dropped. The Russian authorities should respect, protect, promote, and fulfil the right to freedom of religion as enshrined in the country’s Constitution and human rights treaties to which Russia is a state party. The prosecution and harassment of Jehovah’s Witnesses must stop. Amnesty International is also calling on the Russian authorities to quash the judicial decision banning Jehovah’s Witnesses’ organizations as ‘extremist,’ review the anti-extremism legislation, and ensure that it is no longer used arbitrarily.”
Rachel Denber, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia division, says: “This is yet another shocking prison sentence against a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses for nothing more than peaceful religious activity There have been dozens of others prison sentences issued since Russian authorities banned Jehovah’s Witnesses as an “extremist”, each one is a violation of the right to religious freedom. Igor Shmidt should be immediately freed, as should all other Jehovah’s Witnesses behind bars for their religious activity.”
Jarrod Lopes, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, says: “Igor is the fourth one of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be sentenced to prison for six or more years on baseless charges. Twelve other Jehovah’s Witnesses in Crimea are facing criminal charges for their faith. Fueled by religious discrimination, Russian authorities continue to hunt down, and at times beat or torture, peaceful Jehovah’s Witnesses. They’ve raided 1,594 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses since 2017—even targeting those handicapped and elderly ones, some as old as 90. We hope soon those responsible for the nationwide persecution will be stopped, so our fellow worshippers can enjoy the freedom of religion as guaranteed by the Russian constitution. Jehovah’s Witnesses want nothing more than to peacefully worship in Russia and Crimea as they do in over 200 other lands.”
Additional background on Igor’s case:
Nationwide Persecution (Russia and Crimea)
- 257 criminal cases, involving 559 believers
- 69 in prison
- 32 under house arrest
- 1,594 homes of Witnesses raided since the 2017 Russian Supreme Court ruling that liquidated the Witnesses’ legal entities in Russia and Crimea
Picture: Shmidt, Igor Yakovlevich (Courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses)