Activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently banned in Russia.
A Jehovah’s Witness man, Sergei Klimov has been sentenced to six years imprisonment for organising activities and prayer meeting in the city after the national declaration that the religious group was banned. Russia tagged the religious group an extremist organisation.
The Russia State prosecutors had reportedly called for an even tougher seven-year sentence after accusing Klimov of heading a covert Jehovah’s Witness cell in Tomsk, recruiting new believers and collecting charitable donations.
Klimov, who has been held in custody since a police raid on his home in Tomsk in June 2018, refused to testify during his trial. Lawyers for the defence said they would appeal against the verdict.
Russia’s supreme court outlawed the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017 after classifying the religious group as an “extremist organisation” the same designation used for Islamic State, Irish Times reported.
Although practising the faith is not explicitly illegal, all Jehovah’s Witnesses representative offices in Russia have been closed and believers are forbidden to proselytise or distribute religious literature.
Over the two years since the supreme court ruling, the Jehovah’s Witnesses community in Russia has come under attack from law enforcers, with police raiding their homes and prayer meetings and conducting arrests.
Dedicated pacifists, Jehovah’s Witnesses are easy targets and there have been disturbing reports of believers being tortured while in custody.
The United States state department imposed a visa ban on two Russian investigators in September, alleging that they had subjected Jehovah’s Witnesses to severe beatings and electric shocks during interrogation in a prison in the Siberian town of Surgut.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has denied the torture charges, according to Irish Times report.
According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation, 44 of its followers are in detention in Russia, including 10 who have been convicted on extremism charges. A further 25 are under house arrest. It claims that the detainees are being jailed for “their peaceful Christian worship”.