RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Author)
A 73-year-old Jehovah’s Witness in Russia's Far Eastern Primorye region has been handed a four-year suspended sentence on extremism charges amid an ongoing crackdown on the religious group that has been banned in the country since 2017.
On May 19, a district court in the town of Volno-Nadezhdinskoye found Lyudmila Shut, an elderly woman who can hardly move due to her medical condition, guilty of taking part in the activities of an "extremist organization."
In her final statement at the hearing, Shut denied taking part in the activities of any extremist groups.
"I am not a criminal and I am not an extremist. I do not know such a terrible word at all. This is something alien to me and completely contradicts to my religious views," Shut said.
The United States has condemned Russia's ongoing crackdown on Jehovah's Witnesses and other peaceful religious minorities.
The same court recently handed a six -year suspended sentence to a 77-year-old Jehovah’s Witness in March on the same charge.
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 not celebrating national and religious holidays or birthdays.
Since the faith was outlawed in Russia, many Jehovah's Witnesses have been imprisoned in both Russia and the Russia-annexed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea on the Black Sea.
According to the group, dozens of Jehovah's Witnesses have either been convicted of extremism or are in pretrial detention.
The Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized dozens of Jehovah’s Witnesses who've been charged with or convicted of extremism as political prisoners.
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