Legal Case of the Week: Three Jehovah’s Witnesses fined for organising and financing an ‘extremist organisation’

Week-ending 23 July 2021

On 19 July 2021 a court in Kirov in the Urals district fined three Jehovah’s Witnesses for organising and financing an extremist group. The Russian Supreme Court designated Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organisation in 2017. The three convicted were Andrei Shchepin, Aleksandr Shamov, and Yevgeny Udintsev. They were each fined sums ranging between 200,000 roubles and 500,000 roubles. In other Russian regions Jehovah’s Witnesses have been jailed for long terms on similar charges. This week Amnesty International called on the Russian authorities to release Dennis Christensen, a Danish Jehovah’s Witness who was jailed for six years in 2019. Dennis Christensen is a prison of conscience. His sentence expires in May 2022.

RFE/RL, 19 July 2021: A court in the Urals city of Kirov has fined three Jehovah’s Witnesses on charges of organizing and financing the religious group that Russia labeled as extremist and banned in 2017. The Lenin district court on July 19 ordered Andrei Shchepin, Aleksandr Shamov, and Yevgeny Udintsev to pay fines of between 200,000 rubles and 500,000 rubles ($2,700-$6,750). Although the defendants pleaded not guilty, their relatives and supporters met the pronouncement of the verdicts and sentences with applause as in many cases the religious group’s members have been handed lengthy prison terms in Russia in recent years.

Amnesty International, 23 July 2021: Danish Jehovah’s Witness Dennis Christensen continues to be imprisoned in Russia. His repeated requests to have his sentenced commuted have been rejected. His sentence expires in May 2022. During his imprisonment Dennis Christensen has been denied adequate medical care, and faced harassment and arbitrary reprimands. In March, the Kursk Regional Court found several reprimands unjustified. In June, Dennis Christensen was finally transferred to another penal colony for a planned medical examination. He is a prisoner of conscience, persecuted solely for exercising his freedom of religion and must be released immediately and unconditionally.

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