Russian Jehova’s Witness acquitted of extremism


Eastern Europe


Photo JW.org

A Jehovah’s witness from Russia was acquitted of extremism for the first time since the country banned the religious group in 2017.

The court of the city of Vladivostok ruled that joint prayers among members of banned religious organisations “do not contain elements of extremism”. As a result, Dmitry Barmakin (1974) was acquitted. The verdict will come into force on December 3th. That is if the prosecutors’ office does not appeal the ruling.

According to the Russian news website Meduza, the verdict states that Barmakin “never carried out extremist activities”, when practising his faith. The judge found no evidence of a crime in Barmakin’s actions since the Jehovah’s Witnesses were “exercising the right to freedom of religion enshrined in the Constitution of Russia.”

The judge’s verdict seemed to be a result of a Supreme Court decision last week. On November 17th, the Russian Supreme Court banned the prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses for joint worship. The Supreme Court’s plenum ruled that collective prayers among members of banned religious organisations “consisting exclusively in the exercise of their right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion do not contain elements of extremism.”

According to the Moscow Times, that ruling could affect 152 convictions that have not yet entered into force or are being appealed. One of them seems to be the case of Mr Barmakin.

Barkin was arrested on July 28th, 2018. According to the website of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a group of armed and masked men broke into the apartment where Barmakin and his wife for 13 years Yelena had been staying to care for Yelena’s 90-year-old grandmother. Apparently, a 30-year-old woman working for the Federal Security Service (FSB), who pretended to show interest in the Bible, secretly filmed her conversations in meetings with Barkin. The Jehova’s Witness was kept in prison for over a year, after which he was sent home. There, he was placed under house arrest.


Russian authorities outlawed Jehova’s Witnesses as “extremist” in 2017. Since then, it subjected thousands of worshippers to police raids and sentenced Jehova’s Witnesses up to eight years of imprisonment, writes The Moscow Times.

On November 17th, the same day as the Supreme Courts decision, the United States added Russia to an index of countries singled out for “egregious violations of religious freedom”. According to Forbes, this could have economic policy consequences for Russia.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken mentioned the harassment of Jehova’s Witnesses and Muslim minorities as one of the reasons why the United States put the Russian State on the blacklist. Blinken mentioned the rise of “the dangerous ideology” anti-Semitism as well.



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