Four Jehovah's Witnesses Handed Prison Terms In Russia's Far East Amid Ongoing Crackdown

By Current Time

Another four Jehovah’s Witnesses have been handed prison terms on extremism charges in Russia amid an ongoing crackdown on the religious group, which has been banned in Russia since 2017.

The Jehovah's Witnesses said on October 25 that a court in the Amur region in Russia's Far East sentenced Vladimir Bukin, Valery Slashchev, and Sergei Yuferov to 6 1/2 years in prison each, and Mikhail Burkov to six years and two months in prison.

The Tynda district court found the four men guilty of organizing activities of an extremist group. Bukin, Slashchev, and Yuferov were also convicted of recruiting members of an extremist organization.

All four defendants pleaded not guilty, adding that they were being prosecuted for their belief in God.

Since the faith was outlawed, dozens of Jehovah's Witnesses have had cases launched against them, with many sentenced to prison in Russia and the Russia-annexed Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.

The United States has condemned Russia's ongoing crackdown on Jehovah's Witnesses and other peaceful religious minorities.

For decades, the Jehovah's Witnesses have been viewed with suspicion in Russia, where the dominant Orthodox Church is championed by President Vladimir Putin.

The Christian group is known for door-to-door preaching, close Bible study, rejection of military service, and refusal to mark national and religious holidays or birthdays.