Legal Case of the Week: Six Jehovah’s Witnesses convicted of belonging to an extremist organisation and given suspended sentences

Week-ending 9 October 2020

On 8 October 2020 in the city of Ulyanovsk six Jehovah’s Witnesses were given suspended sentences ranging from two and a half to four years, with additional restrictions imposed on them after they have completed their sentences for periods of between seven and 10 months.

RFE/RL, 8 October 2020: A Russian court has handed down suspended prison sentences to six members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, in what a spokesman for the religious denomination called a “gross injustice.” Judge Galina Soshkina in the central city of Ulyanovsk sentenced the defendants on October 8 to between 2 1/2 years and four years, plus between seven and 10 months of restricted freedom, according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses world headquarters in the United States. “We are pleased that they were not imprisoned, yet it remains a gross injustice for them to be convicted simply for their peaceful Christian worship,” spokesman Jarrod Lopes said in a statement. Lopes called on Russia to “stop vilifying Jehovah’s Witnesses with the preposterous label of ‘extremists’ so they can once again worship freely and contribute fully to the communities they love.” The ruling comes a day after Galina Soshkina, a judge in the North Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkaria, “courageously” issued the first “not guilty” verdict on a Jehovah’s Witness since Russia banned the group in 2017 and declared them an extremist organization, the spokesman said.

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