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EuropeRUSSIA: Jehovah’s Witness deported to… Ukraine (!) after his release

RUSSIA: Jehovah’s Witness deported to… Ukraine (!) after his release

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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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Konstantin Bazhenov was deprived of his citizenship due to his criminal prosecution. See a video report and his testimony in Russian.

In 2021, one of the first Jehovah’s Witnesses that was sent behind bars after the Russian Supreme Court decided to ban the organization was released from prison and deported from Russia. His story is told in this four-minute video. 

As soon as Konstantin Bazhenov left the colony, he was detained and deported to Ukraine because his Russian citizenship was revoked due to criminal prosecution.

It all began on June 12, 2018, when searches took place in Konstantin Bazhenov’s apartment, as well as in 6 other dwellings of believers. After that, he was charged with extremism. As a result, Konstantin and five other believers were sent to the pre-trial detention center.

Konstantin Bazhenov: “The FSB, the investigator and the operatives promised me that if I plead guilty, I will start cooperating with them, they will guarantee me a suspended sentence, and that I will not go to prison.” Konstantin refused to cooperate with the investigator, as this would mean giving up his faith. In total, Konstantin spent almost a year in a pre-trial detention center and waited for a court decision under a ban on certain actions for several more months. The investigation accused him of organizing the activities of an extremist organization.

Konstantin Bazhenov: “The main accusation was based on the fact that in the winter, in January 2018, we held a religious meeting. We read the Bible there, sang spiritual songs, discussed how to live according to biblical principles. The investigator interpreted this religious meeting as if we were holding a meeting of a legal entity banned in Russia.”

On September 19, 2019, the judge announced the sentence: 3.5 years in a penal colony. Three months later, the Court of Appeal upheld this verdict and on February 4, 2020, Bazhenov was sent to a correctional colony.

Konstantin Bazhenov: “On February 8, 2020, I was brought to the correctional colony-3 in the city of Dimitrovgrad, Ulyanovsk Region. I worked at the prison store. I received a lot of letters. The operational officer called me and said: “Bazhenov, we receive 300 letters a year for the entire colony. You alone received more than 300 letters in a month.” He says: “What are you doing? Do you want our inspector to drown in these letters?” Well, I explained that people want to support me, somehow encourage, encourage me.

Jehovah’s Witness sentenced, enprisoned, released and deported

Konstantin spent another 1 year and 3 months in the colony and was released on parole on May 5, 2021.

Konstantin Bazhenov: “It was a happy moment – I saw Irina, my wife, hugged her. The head of the detachment says: “Konstantin, I didn’t expect so many people to be present! I knew that you have brothers and sisters, they write letters to you. But that so many people will come to meet you … “He says:” Yes, you are a happy person!

When the day of the deportation came, Konstantin’s fellow believers gathered to support him. Konstantin Bazhenov: “On May 19, we arrived at the border. They checked our documents, all issued. I was met by brothers and sisters with a poster, flowers. My dear wife, Irina, was present. And it was such a joy, such an unforgettable moment, how we saw each other, how we could hug. As Jehovah promised that he would provide a way out in trials – behold, he provided me with a way out. I left the colony, left the deportation center. Indeed, he pushed away all the barriers and made it possible for my wife and I to meet on the day of our wedding anniversary. Such a happy moment.”

After his release, Konstantin and Irina Bazhenov live in Ukraine.

Over the past 4.5 years, 322 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been imprisoned. As of February 2022, 65 believers are awaiting sentencing behind bars and another 18 are serving sentences in penal colonies. 8 Jehovah’s Witnesses completed their sentences and were released from prison.

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  1. Well written 100% accurate report. Thank you for sticking to the facts… it makes reading factual news. A pleasure. Rather than second guessing if its fake news! Thank you…

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