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Editor's choiceRUSSIA, Six years and five months of prison for a Jehovah’s Witness

RUSSIA, Six years and five months of prison for a Jehovah’s Witness

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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.

Konstantin Sannikov sentenced to six years and five months of prison

Despite Russia’s war in Ukraine and a decision of the European Court in 2022 urging Russia to stop all pending criminal proceedings against Jehovah’s Witnesses, Putin has not halted his repression policy against Jehovah’s Witnesses.

On 15 February 2023, the Sovetskiy District Court of Kazan sentenced Konstantin Sannikov to 6 years and 5 months in a penal colony. For conducting peaceful religious services of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the court found him guilty of extremism.

Throughout the preliminary investigation and trial – for more than two years – Konstantin has been in a detention center.

In August 2020, the FSB of Tatarstan initiated a criminal case under part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (organizing the activity of an extremist organization) against Konstantin Sannikov, doctor of forensics and the father of 4 children. Conversations about the Bible among friends were regarded as organizing extremist activity. Sannikov was placed in a detention center, and his bank accounts were frozen. In August 2021, court hearings began. While in custody for about two years, he was never allowed a visit from his wife. During his imprisonment, his chronic illnesses worsened. In court, his boss spoke of him as a responsible and honest worker who had never been reprimanded, but, on the contrary, repeatedly received commendation, incentives and awards. The testimonies of secret witnesses did not correspond to reality and indicated personal aversion to this denomination.

On 20 February 2023, the Vakhitovsky District Court of Kazan found Andrey Bochkarev guilty of organizing the activities of an extremist organization. He pleaded non-guilty. He was sentenced to three years and one month of imprisonment, but he was released in the courtroom, since he has actually served his long term in a pre-trial detention center!

During the first two months and a half of 2023, there were also a lot of suspended sentences to prison; appeal courts and the Cassation Court also confirmed the sentences to effective prison terms of many other Jehovah’s Witnesses who were already in pretrial detention.  LINK.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Russian Federation “must take all necessary measures to secure the discontinuation of all pending criminal proceedings against Jehovah’s Witnesses… and the release of all Jehovah’s Witnesses in custody” (§ 285).

Read more:

ECtHR, Russia to pay about 350,000 EUR to Jehovah’s Witnesses for disrupting their religious meetings

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