Russian judge sends four Jehovah's Witnesses to prison


Eastern Europe


Valery Krieger, Alam Aliyev, Dmitry Zagulin and Sergey Shulyarenko on the day of the verdict. Photo jw-russia.org

Four Russians will be imprisoned for organising and financing extremist activities. All four belong to the community of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.

It concerns Dmitry Zagulin, Alam Aliyev, Sergey Shulyarenko and Valeriy Kriger. The judge ruled on Monday that Zagulin has to go to prison for 3.5 years, Aliyev for 6.5 years and both Shulyarenko and Kriger for seven years. That is reported by the Jehovah's Witnesses website. The legal process took over two years. The prosecutor had demanded a punishment of 4 to 9 years in a penal colony. The four defendants denied their accusations.

Police raid

The four were detained during a police raid in May 2018, The Moscow Times reports. They were accused of holding worship services of a forbidden organisation. The city in which the men were detained, Birobidzhan, was one of the first to label the Jehovah's Witnesses as an extremist group in 2016. A year later, the Russian Supreme Court officially banned the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Sergey Shulyarenko, one of the detainees, says that his family believes the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses is a misunderstanding. He adds that the persecution does not hold other believers back from supporting them in the courthouse.

Alam Aliev compared the persecution of the Jehovah's Witnesses nowadays to the persecution in Soviet Times. "If I am recognised as an extremist, how many years will I have to wait to be rehabilitated?" he said during the trial.

The spokesman for the Jehovah's Witnesses, Jarrod Lopes, said that the judge's verdict brings the total number of persecuted Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia to over 110. According to Lopes, 38 Russian Jehovah's Witnesses have been sentenced to prison in 2022.

The European Court of Human Rights condemned the ban on Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia earlier this year.



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