Law of the Week: Jehovah’s Witnesses, designated ‘extremist’ since 2017

Week-ending 29 October 2021

In 2017 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation designated Jehovah’s Witnesses as an extremist organisation, banning the faith’s organisations in Russia. Since then scores of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been prosecuted for their faith. Last week in Crimea a Jehovah’s Witness- Igor Shmidt – was sentenced to six years in prison for practising his faith. This week a court in Astrakhan sentenced four Jehovah’s witnesses to long terms in prison. Three (Rustam Diarov, Yevgeny Ivanov and Sergei Klikunov) were sentenced to eight years in prison; one (Olga Ivanova) was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.


RFE/RL, 26 October 2021: A court in Russia’s southwestern city of Astrakhan has sentenced four Jehovah’s witnesses to lengthy prison terms amid an ongoing crackdown of the religious group’s followers across the country. The Investigative Committee said on October 26 that three men were sentenced to eight years in prison each, and a woman to 3 1/2 years in prison on extremism charges.

The Moscow Times, 26 October 2021: Russian courts have handed lengthy prison sentences to Jehovah’s Witnesses for organizing “extremist” activities over the past week in some of the harshest verdicts given to the religious group’s members yet. Russia outlawed the nonconformist Christian denomination in 2017, subjecting thousands of worshippers to criminal prosecution, harassment and intimidation.

Human Rights in Ukraine, 25 October 2021: A Russian-controlled ‘court’ in occupied Crimea has sentenced 49-year-old Igor Schmidt to six years’ imprisonment for practising his faith as a Jehovah’s Witness.  This was labelled ‘organizing the activities of an extremist organization’ under Article 282.2 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code.  The verdict on 22 October is the fourth such ‘conviction’ for reading the Bible and worshipping together in occupied Crimea, with all of them having resulted in 6 or 6.5-year real prison terms.  This is a level of repression far worse than in Russia, where convictions are predetermined, but suspended sentences common. It is especially disturbing since there are currently twelve other believers facing virtually identical charges, and this figure is increasing all the time.

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