Russian court sentenced Jehovahs Witnesses to 6 years in prison
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RU 2022.01.26 For the first time in Russia, a court sentenced a woman to 6 years in prison for belonging to Jehovah’s Witnesses

Впервые в России суд приговорил женщину к 6 годам лишения свободы за принадлежность к Свидетелям Иеговы.

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For the first time in Russia, a court sentenced a woman to 6 years in prison for belonging to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Russian court sentenced Jehovahs Witnesses to 6 years in prison

On January 25, Judge of the Trusovsky District Court of Astrakhan, Alexander Lepsky, recognized Jehovah’s Witness* Anna Safronova’s participation in Bible discussions as extremism and sentenced her to 6 years of actual imprisonment in a penal colony, as requested by the prosecutor. After the verdict was announced, the believer was taken into custody, a correspondent of the “Credo. Press” portal reports, citing a source among Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses*.

In her last speech, Safronova said: “A conscience taught by the Bible does not allow me to harm the state and the people living in it. I have nothing to do with extremism. In fact, I am accused of believing in Jehovah God, praying to Him, talking to others about the Bible, and remaining a Jehovah’s Witness, that is, enjoying the rights guaranteed by Article 28 of the Constitution. As in other “extremist” cases against Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are no victims or damages in Safronova’s case. The verdict has not entered into force and can be appealed.

Anna Safronova is a 56-year-old widow. She takes care of her mother, who is over 80 years old. The women had to endure searches twice. The first one took place in the summer of 2020 when a raid took place in the homes of 26 more families of local believers. At that time, Anna was a witness in the case of other Astrakhan Jehovah’s Witnesses* accused of extremism. A year later, Anna and her mother’s apartment were searched again. This time, Safronova was already a suspect. She was interrogated and sent to the detention center for one day.

On May 28, 2021, the investigator for especially important cases of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Astrakhan Region, Nikolai Banko, opened a criminal case against Anna Safronova under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 and part 1 of Art. 282.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, accusing her of participating in worship services of Jehovah’s Witnesses* and “financing extremist activities.” Among the evidence of Anna’s “criminal intent” is a discussion of the Bible with fellow believers via video link, singing songs and prayers to God.

The investigation believes that the financing of extremism is that Safronova helped collect voluntary donations for the common needs of believers, for example, to pay for the ZOOM program, video cameras, and microphones to communicate with fellow believers. Almost immediately after the initiation of the criminal case, Anna was included in the list of extremists in Rosfinmonitoring, due to which her bank accounts were blocked.

Anna Safronova became the first female Jehovah’s Witness* in Russia to be sentenced to such a long prison term. In addition to her, after the guilty verdict, two more witnesses are currently behind bars: Olga Ivanova from Astrakhan (sentence – 3.5 years) and Valentina Baranovskaya from Abakan (2 years). In addition, Olga Ponomareva and Anna Yermak from the Krasnodar village of Kholmskaya were sentenced in absentia to 5 and 4.5 years in prison, respectively. Another woman, Tatyana Velizhanina from Sochi, is awaiting a court decision in a pre-trial detention center. 

* In April 2017, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation recognized as extremist and liquidated all 396 religious organizations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. Despite the fact that their religion is not banned, soon after that, law enforcement agencies began criminal prosecutions of believers of this denomination in almost all regions of the country. According to the decision of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of October 28, 2021, “the divine services of Jehovah’s Witnesses, their joint performance of rites and ceremonies, in themselves do not constitute a crime under Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, despite the liquidation of their legal entities“.

Source:  (censored by the Russian Authorities)
Russian court sentenced a woman to 6 years in prison for belonging to Jehovah’s Witnesses

Reviewed Oct. 2023