Legal Case of the Week: Five Jehovah’s Witnesses in Komi charged and subjected to pre-trial restrictions for organising or participating in an ‘extremist group.’

Week-ending 5 March 2021

On 4 March 2021 five Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Republic of Komi were charged with organising and participating in the activities of an extremist group. That day a court in Syktyvkar ruled that one of those charged should be remanded in custody, two were placed under house arrest and the other two were placed under travel restrictions. Jehovah’s Witnesses were classified as an ‘extremist’ organisation by decision of the Russian Supreme Court in April 2017. This decision is in contradiction with Russia’s international obligations, including for example under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which provides for freedom of thought and conscience, and the freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of one’s choice. 


RFE/RL, 4 March 2021: Five Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia’s Komi Republic have been accused of organizing and taking part in the activities of an extremist group amid a continued crackdown on the religious group, which has been banned in the country since 2017. Russia’s Investigative Committee said on March 4 that a court in the city of Syktyvkar ordered one suspect in the case to be placed in pretrial detention. Two Jehovah’s Witnesses were placed under house arrest and another two were ordered not to leave the city while an investigation in the case takes place. Jehovah’s Witnesses said a day earlier that police searched at least 14 homes of members of their congregation in Syktyvkar. The announcement came days after a court in Russia’s Republic of Khakassia sentenced two Jehovah’s Witnesses — 69-year-old Valentina Baranovskaya and her son Roman Baranovsky — to two and six years in prison respectively.

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