Three Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced to three years in prison

JW Russia – (13.05.2024) – On May 13, 2024, the judge of the Pervomaisky District Court of Izhevsk, Marina Khokhryakova, found Maksim Derendyaev, Aleksandr Kutin and Sergey Ashikhmin guilty of extremism and sentenced each to 3 years in prison in a penal colony (the prosecutor requested 7 years each). The believers were taken into custody in the courtroom. They intend to appeal the verdict.

As an additional punishment, the court forbade everyone to carry out any activity in public and religious associations for 4 years, and additionally restricted their freedom for 1 year.

The investigation considered the conversations about God and the Bible to be the organization of the activities of an extremist organization, and in the spring of 2021, a criminal case was opened against Derendyaev, Kutin and Ashikhmin. Mass searches took place in Izhevsk. As a result, Maksim Derendyaev and Aleksandr Kutin ended up in a pre-trial detention center, where one stayed for 3 months, and the second for 15 days. Sergey Ashikhmin was released under a ban on certain actions, taking into account the serious operation he undergone.

After 2 years of trial, Maksim Derendyaev, 38, said: “I have not been able to understand what my actions the prosecution considers a crime. For 4 years, a hidden record was kept against me. This is about 1,000 hours of conversations in a relaxed atmosphere between family members, fellow believers, including on everyday topics, and not a single extremist statement!”

Friends help the families of believers with the hardships caused by unjust criminal prosecution: they support them financially, give them cards and letters with words of love and encouragement. Aleksander Kutin, 41, said: “When letters from different countries and regions began to arrive, it made a strong impression on one of my neighbors—this is a real brotherhood, and when you get into trouble, they will not abandon you, but they will support and help.” In court, Kutin stated: “The criminal case was initiated and brought to trial with the sole purpose of prohibiting me from practicing my religion that is not prohibited by law and living as written in the Bible. The investigation is trying to make us criminals who broke the law. But we didn’t break the law of the land.”

Sergey Ashikhmin, 50, speaking with the last plea, emphasized: “There have never been any extremist motives in my actions, because love and extremism are incompatible!”

In Udmurtia, criminal cases were initiated for their faith against seven Jehovah’s Witnesses.