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Editor's choiceA Russian Jehovah's Witness was sentenced to 8 years in prison 

A Russian Jehovah’s Witness was sentenced to 8 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.

On May 16, 2024, the Samara Regional Court confirmed the sentence of Jehovah’s Witness Alexander Chagan to 8 years in prison under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 Criminal Code (organization of the activities of an extremist organization). 

On February 29, 2024, the Central District Court of Togliatti sentenced Chagan to eight years in a penal colony. In addition to the main punishment, Chagan was assigned a year of restriction of freedom and a three-year ban on participation in activities related to religious organizations.

In comparison 

  • According to Article 111 Part 1 of the Russian Federation’s Criminal Code, grievous bodily harm draws a maximum of 8 years sentence.  
  • According to Article 126 Part 1 of the Criminal Code, kidnapping leads to up to 5 years in prison. 
  • According to Article 131 Part 1 of the Criminal Code, rape is punishable with 3 to 6 years in prison.

The criminal case against the Jehovah’s Witness was initiated on September 14, 2022 – the investigation was carried out by the Central Interdistrict Investigation Department of Togliatti of the Investigative Committee of Russia in the Samara region. According to the investigation, the believer was involved in “involving citizens in the banned extremist organization “Advernal Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia”. On September 21 of the same year, his apartment, as well as Vladimir Zubkov’s, were searched. Later, Chagan was assigned a preventive measure in the form of a travel ban. In July 2023, the case was brought to court. After the verdict was announced, he was detained in the courtroom. 

The accusation of Jehovah’s Witnesses of involvement in the activities of an extremist organization is due to the fact that in April 2017, the Supreme Court of Russia decided to recognize the Management Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and their 395 local religious organizations as extremist. This decision, which led to the mass persecution of believers under Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code, had no legal basis, and can be interpreted as a manifestation of religious discrimination.  

In June 2022, the ECHR issued a ruling on the complaint of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in which it recognized that the prohibition of their organization, the closure of all their local associations and the prosecution of their membersbelievers were contrary to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.  

The ECHR demanded the termination of criminal cases under Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code against Jehovah’s Witnesses and the release of their members in detention. 


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