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RUSSIA: A Jehovah’s Witness sentenced to 7 years 1/2 at the age of 63 years

JW World Headquarters (10.02.2021) – On 10 February, a Russian court imposed the longest, harshest sentence—7.5 years in prison—against one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 63-year-old Aleksandr Ivshin. Prior to today’s ruling, 6 years was the longest sentence imposed on one of Jehovah’s Witnesses since the 2017 Russian Supreme Court ruling that liquidated all of the Witnesses’ legal entities in Russia and Crimea.

Additionally, early this morning, Russian authorities armed with machine guns raided at least 15 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Moscow and its surrounding region. At least three men have been detained.

Ivshin Case History

  • April 2020, authorities in the villages of Kholmskaya and Pavlovskaya, Krasnodar Territory, searched 9 homes of believers, including that of Aleksandr Ivshin
  • Aleksandr spent 9 months under recognizance not to leave
  • December 2020, the case went to court, lasting only 4 sessions under Judge Kholoshin
  • Aleksandr stated during his final comments to the court: “I get the feeling that I am being tried not for extremism, but for simply continuing to profess the peaceful religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” He continued: “In my last word I want to assure you once again that throughout my life, I have not shown aggression or hatred towards anyone. People turned to me for advice and help, and this made me happy. […] Dear court, my position in life is based on biblical principles, where there is no extremism and violence.”

Update on Dennis Christensen

  • Today the Kursk Regional Court denied Dennis’ request for early release and to replace the remainder of his prison term with a fine. This is the second time his request for parole has been denied
  • Dennis was the first Jehovah’s Witness to be imprisoned following the 2017 ban
  • Imprisoned since May 2017
  • Currently serving a six-year sentence

Nationwide Persecution (Russia and Crimea)

  • 197 criminal cases, involving 435 believers
  • 42 in prison
  • 27 under house arrest
  • 1,296 homes of Witnesses raided since the 2017 Supreme Court ruling that liquidated the Witnesses’ legal entities
  • 39 men and women were convicted in 2020 under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (more than double the 18 convictions in 2019)
  • 72 were imprisoned temporarily or due to conviction in 2020

Photo : jw-Russia.org – Alexander Ivshin just before his conviction.





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RUSSIA: Six years and a half in prison for 61-year-old Jehovah’s Witness Gennady Shpakovskiy

JW World Headquarters (09.06.2020) – The Pskov City Court convicted 61-year-old Gennady Shpakovskiy and sentenced him to six and a half years in prison simply for holding small Christian meetings in his home. This is the longest, harshest sentence handed down to one of Jehovah’s Witnesses since the 2017 Russian Supreme Court ruling that effectively criminalized their activity. Gennady did not serve any time in pretrial detention so he faces the full 6.5 years in prison. Gennady was taken into custody in the courtroom. Gennady will appeal his conviction.

Jarrod Lopes, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, states: “Today, Russia has arbitrarily imprisoned another peaceful believer, disregarding its own constitution and international human rights law. The city court’s ruling is in defiance of repeated demand by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and other prominent international actors to stop arresting, detaining, and prosecuting Jehovah’s Witnesses for their peaceful worship. Yet, Russian authorities have persisted, raiding over 120 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses already this year. Undeterred even by COVID-19, Russia unconscionably continues to unconscionably subject peaceful citizens like Gennady to the unsanitary and potentially deadly confines of prison.”

In his final address to the judge, Gennady completely rejected the charge against him for “extremism.” He recalled that during Soviet times millions of citizens were likewise repressed on false charges—among them were Jehovah’s Witnesses who were later rehabilitated by the authorities. “Unfortunately, history repeats itself. Today, the same thing is being done to me and my fellow believers,” stated Gennady.

“The so-called evidence against me is that I merely confess the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including meeting to watch religious videos with believers, singing songs with them, praying to God Jehovah, and discussing my beliefs with others,” said Gennady. He explained that none of these actions are mentioned in Russia’s “Law on Combatting Extremist Activities.”

“Paradoxically,” states defense lawyer Arly Chimirov, “at one of the last hearings, Judge Galina Belik personally emphasized that the practice of religion, joint meetings, and prayers are not a crime, but a right of all Russian citizens enshrined in Article 28 of the Constitution of Russia.”

How did this happen?

  • In early 2018, FSB agents wiretapped the Shpakovskiy family’s apartment and monitored their activity for several months. On June 3, 2018, at 12:45 p.m., FSB agents and armed National Guard officers forced open the front door of the Shpakovskiy’s apartment, where a few were present for a peaceful Christian meeting. The FSB and National Guard searched the apartment for six hours.
  • The FSB agents confiscated tablets and cell phones and took the Witnesses away for questioning. The interrogators insulted the Witnesses and threatened them with dismissal from work as well as criminal prosecution. Gennady’s interrogation lasted until 10 p.m.
  • On March 19, 2019, Gennady was charged with organizing the activities of an “extremist” organization. Five months later, Gennady was also charged with “financing extremist activities.”
  • Hearings began November 5, 2019, with Judge Galina Belik presiding (summary of court proceedings)

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