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NewsRussia: Two Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced to four and seven years in prison

Russia: Two Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced to four and seven years in prison

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Willy Fautre
Willy Fautrehttps://www.hrwf.eu
Willy Fautré, former chargé de mission at the Cabinet of the Belgian Ministry of Education and at the Belgian Parliament. He is the director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), an NGO based in Brussels that he founded in December 1988. His organization defends human rights in general with a special focus on ethnic and religious minorities, freedom of expression, women’s rights and LGBT people. HRWF is independent from any political movement and any religion. Fautré has carried out fact-finding missions on human rights in more than 25 countries, including in perilous regions such as in Iraq, in Sandinist Nicaragua or in Maoist held territories of Nepal. He is a lecturer in universities in the field of human rights. He has published many articles in university journals about relations between state and religions. He is a member of the Press Club in Brussels. He is a human rights advocate at the UN, the European Parliament and the OSCE.

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Over 80 Jehovah’s Witnesses are in prison in Russia, including four of them sentenced in the first three weeks of January 2022

Credit photos: Courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Russia: Two Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced to four and seven years in prison

On January 20, 2022, the Seversky City Court found Jehovah’s Witness Yevgeny Korotun guilty of organizing the activities of an extremist organization under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to seven years in prison with subsequent restriction of liberty for two years and a five-year ban on working in educational institutions and “placement of any educational information”, including on the Internet. Thus, the court granted the request of the prosecutor who asked for such a verdict during the debate.

The initiation of criminal proceedings against Korotun became known in July 2020. He was placed under house arrest, but in September he was detained. According to the investigation, under the leadership of Korotun “from July 2017 to July 2020 in ZATO g. Seversk, Tomsk region, a group of persons organized the activities of the banned local community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, knowing about its ban, held “closed conspiratorial meetings”, distributed prohibited literature and worked “to recruit and involve new participants from among the residents of the city of Seversk”. The court began consideration of the case in April 2021.

See more information about the case here.

On the same day, the Seversky City Court found another Jehovah’s Witness, Andrei Kolesnichenko, guilty of participating in the activities of an extremist organization under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code. He was sentenced to four years in prison with subsequent restriction of liberty for a year.

Earlier during the debate, the prosecutor asked Kolesnichenko to be sentenced to five years in prison and a year of restriction of liberty.

Kolesnichenko’s case was initiated in March 2021 and has been considered since July.

See more information about the case here.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are accused of involvement in the activities of an extremist organization due to the fact that in April 2017 the Supreme Court of Russia decided to recognize the Jehovah’s Witnesses Management Center in Russia and 395 local religious organizations as extremist. We believe that this decision, which entailed mass prosecution of believers in criminal proceedings, had no legal basis, and regard it as a manifestation of religious discrimination.

This is further evidence that local authorities continue to disregard Russia’s Supreme Court Plenum back in October 2021 outlining that individual or collective worship should not in itself be viewed as participation in the activities of a banned religious organization.

Jarrod Lopes, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses states: “There are over 80 Jehovah’s Witnesses in prison in Russia—the most since the Russian Supreme Court liquidated the Witnesses’ legal entities in 2017. It’s unthinkable that peaceful Christian family men like Yevgeniy and Andrey would be accused of extremist activity and given harsh, lengthy prison sentences usually reserved for violent criminals. The escalating discriminatory assault against Jehovah’s Witnesses is putting a huge burden on a growing number of families to support themselves without the help of their husbands and fathers, who were often the family’s primary source of income. In Yevgeniy’s case, his son, Alexander, is only a preteen. He will now be forced to spend the rest of his childhood and teen years without his father. We hope that soon the callous persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia will end—families will no longer be needlessly separated—and they can worship freely in their home country as they 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.

Sources: Sova Centre (Moscow) – JW World Headquarters (New York)

Jehovah’s Witnesses sent to prison in Russia in 2022

20 January 2022: Yevgeny Korotun, 52 years old (7 years + 2 years of restricted liberty)

20 January 2022: Andrei Kolesnichenko, 52 years old (4 years + 1 year of restricted liberty)

19 January 2022: Alexei Ershov, 68 years old (3 years)

17 January 2022: Maksim Beltikov, 42 years old (2 years)

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