31 Mar 2023 21:52

Moscow court sentences Jehovah's Witnesses members to up to 6 years in prison

MOSCOW. March 31 (Interfax) - Moscow's Babushkinsky District Court has sentenced five members of Jehovah's Witnesses, a religious organization designated extremist and banned in Russia, to real jail terms in the criminal case of activities of an extremist organization, the court's press service told Interfax on Friday.

According to the sentence handed down on Friday, the court sentenced Yury Chernyshev, Sergei Shatalov, Vitaly Komarov, and Ivan Chaikovsky to six years and three months in a general-security penitentiary and custodial restraint for one year.

In addition, all of them were deprived of the right to "engage in activities related to leading and participating in the work of civic organizations" for three years.

The court sentenced another defendant, Vardan Zakaryan, to four years and three months in a general-security penitentiary.

Chernyshev, Shatalov, Komarov, and Chaikovsky were found guilty of organizing the activities of an extremist religious organization and Zakaryan was found guilty of recruiting into an extremist organization, the court's press service said.

The Moscow branch of the Russian Investigative Committee reported the detention of several leaders of the Jehovah's Witnesses Administrative Center in Russia in November 2020.

According to investigators, the defendants, while being aware of the legally effective decision of the Supreme Court to ban the religious organization's activities in Russia, arranged the operations of a Jehovah's Witnesses branch in the northeastern part of Moscow.

According to the Moscow branch of the Russian Investigative Committee, "their secret meetings were held at an apartment located on Chelyuskinskaya Street where followers studied religious literature and information from other sources promoting the Jehovah's Witnesses ideology and also were engaged in other work typical of this organization,"

Investigators found that members of the organization persuaded and recruited residents of the capital and other regions to join the organization.

The defendants denied any wrongdoing after their detention.