A Russian court convicted six Jehovah’s Witnesses of “extremist activities” Friday.
The Leninsky District Court of Penza convicted Vladimir Alushkin and sentenced him to six years in prison, Jehovah’s Witnesses World Headquarters Spokesman Jarrod Lopes told the Daily Caller News Foundation. The court convicted Alushkin for “extremist activity,” and Alushkin was “immediately handcuffed and taken into detention,” Lopes said.
Five other Jehovah’s Witnesses were convicted and given conditional sentences (which did not include prison time) of two years. One of these five was Alushkin’s wife, Tatyana, Lopes told the DCNF.
“Vladimir’s six-year prison sentence is one of the harshest imposed on one of Jehovah’s Witnesses since the 2017 ban,” Lopes told the DCNF. But Lopes added that no one should be surprised that Russsia has convicted more Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Russian government has convicted eighteen Jehovah’s Witnesses this year for “peaceful Christian worship,” the spokesman said.
“Russian authorities have remained obstinate in the face of repeated criticism from prominent international bodies and human rights advocates,” the spokesman told the DCNF. “The current state of religious freedom in Russia is reminiscent of Soviet times. It is well documented that Jehovah’s Witnesses did not renounce their faith during Soviet oppression. Likewise, since the 2017 ban, our fellow believers in Russia have been thriving, and we trust they will continue to do so despite the persistent threat of arrest and imprisonment.”
Russian police officers with assault rifles forced their way into Alushkin’s home on July 25, 2018 and arrested Alushkin, Lopes said. The officers searched the apartment for almost four hours and seized cell phones, electronic devices, Bibles, and more. The officers searched three other homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses that day and took 40 persons to be interrogated.
The Russian Supreme Court passed a 2017 law declaring Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organization, Reuters reported. A Justice Ministry spokeswoman said after the Supreme Court ruled against Jehovah’s Witnesses that members of the organization “pose a threat to the rights of the citizens, public order and public security.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in December 2018 that it is “complete nonsense” that Jehovah’s Witnesses are classified as members of a terrorist organization, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians, too. I don’t quite understand why they are persecuted,” Putin said. “So this should be looked into. This must be done.”
But Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to endure persecution in Russia.
As of Monday, there were 297 Jehovah’s Witnesses facing criminal charges in over 50 regions of Russia, Lopes told the DCNF. Forty-three Jehovah’s Witnesses are in detention, and 22 are under house arrest.
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