RUSSIA: Four Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced to very heavy prison terms
Rustam Diarov , Yevgeniy Ivanov, Sergey Klikunov and Olga Ivanova are Jehovah’s Witnesses Nr 31, 32, 33 and 34 sentenced to prison in 2021
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)
25.10.2021: Rustam Diarov (8 years), Yevgeniy Ivanov (8 years), Sergey Klikunov (8 years) and Olga Ivanova (3.5 years)
HRWF/ JW.ORG (26.10.2021) – On 25 October, a Russian court sentenced three Jehovah’s Witness men [Rustam Diarov (48), Yevgeniy Ivanov (44), and Sergey Klikunov (46)] to 8 years in prison, while Yevgeniy’s wife (Olga Ivanova, 38) was sentenced to 3.5 in prison. Eight years is the longest, harshest* prison sentence for one of Jehovah’s Witnesses (male) in Russia since the organization was banned as “extremist” in 2017. Olga’s sentence is the longest for a female.
How Did This Happen?
- June 8, 2020, A criminal case was launched against Rustam Diarov, Yevgeniy Ivanov, Olga Ivanova, and Sergey Klikunov. The men were all charged with organizing and financing extremist activities. Olga was charged with participation in extremist activities
- June 9, 2020, Over 100 security officials conducted raids on the homes of 27 families of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Astrakhan. Rustam, Yevgeniy, Olga, and Sergey were all placed in temporary detention
- June 11, 2020, Rustam, Yevgeniy, and Sergey were sent to a pretrial detention facility. Olga was placed under house arrest
- October 25, Trusovskiy District Court of Astrakhan sentenced them to prison. Olga was immediately taken in to custody.
Additional background on case Ivanov and others:
See link for images. Please credit: Courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Natalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty International’s Russia researcher, says: “Amnesty International is appalled with the news of yet another severe sentence under “extremism” related charges against four Jehovah’s Witnesses in Astrakhan. Today, Trusovskiy District Court sentenced three men to 8 years imprisonment and a woman to 3.5 years. These are some of the harshest sentences issued so far against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia since the Supreme Court declared Jehovah’s Witnesses’ organization to be “extremist” and banned it in 2017. The Russian authorities then pledged that believers would still be able to practice their faith but these promises rang hollow. The four Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced today are prisoners of conscience, prosecuted solely for their peaceful exercise of freedom of religion and expression, and must be released immediately and unconditionally. This wheel of repression against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia must stop immediately.”
Alexander Verkhovsky, director of Moscow-based Sova Center for Information and Analysis, says: “Real imprisonment for a woman, and real prison terms up to 8 years for men are further proofs of the growing cruelty in the campaign against Jehovah’s Witnesses. The average punishment this year has been harsher than in the previous year.”
Yaroslav Sivulskiy, spokesman for the European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses, says: “The sentences handed down today in Astrakhan are prime examples of how unscrupulous and inhumane some of Russia’s judges are. They unhesitatingly ruin innocent lives by jailing believers who are internationally known as good citizens. Following the 2017 Supreme Court ruling, Russian authorities have repeatedly claimed that the personal beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses are not banned. The judges in Astrakhan thus made a mockery of the rule of law. During the Soviet repression, Jehovah’s Witnesses were imprisoned and exiled to Siberian labor camps on similar charges—for reading the Bible and talking about God with others. In 1991, the Russian government recognized that the Witnesses were peaceful people and that what had happened to them was ideological repression. Believers were rehabilitated and given compensation.”
Jarrod Lopes, international spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, says: “We are appalled by today’s ruling to imprison Rustam, Yevgeniy, and Sergey for a record eight years, as well as Yevgeniy’s wife, Olga, for 3.5 years. Such harsh sentences are typically reserved for brazen, violent criminals.* It’s patently absurd that a peaceful Christian can be imprisoned at all, let alone longer than a kidnapper or rapist! Russian authorities continue to unconscionably hunt down, and at times beat or torture,** peaceful Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have raided 1,594 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses since 2017—even targeting handicapped and elderly ones, some as old as 90. Just this year, over 30 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been convicted and imprisoned simply for peacefully practicing their Christian beliefs. We hope soon those responsible for the nationwide persecution will be stopped, so our fellow worshippers can enjoy the freedom of religion enshrined in Russia’s constitution and guaranteed by international covenants that Russia is party to. Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia want nothing more than to peacefully live and worship in the country they call home as their fellow believers do in over 200 other lands.”
*In comparison, according to Article 111 Part 1 of the Criminal Code, grievous bodily harm draws a maximum of 8 years sentence; Article 126 Part 1 of the Criminal Code, kidnapping leads to up to 5 years in prison; Article 131 Part 1 of the Criminal Code, rape is punishable with 3 to 6 years in prison
Nationwide Persecution (Russia and Crimea)
- 257 criminal cases, involving 559 believers
- 70 in prison
- 31 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
Photo : Getty Images