New level of severity of punishment of Jehovah's Witnesses reached


Memorial, 9 June 2020


Sixty-one-year-old Gennady Shpakovsky was sentenced to the longest prison term on charges of arranging the activity of an extremist organization and its financing.


On 9 June, the Pskov city court sentenced 61-year-old Jehovah's Witness Gennady Shpakovsky to six and a half years in a penal colony of general regime. This was reported to the publication 7 x 7 by attorney Arli Chimirov.


Shpakovsky was given the longest term of punishment, as of today, out of all Jehovah's Witnesses convicted in Russia, having been found guilty of arranging the activity of the local cell of Jehovah's Witnesses (part 1, article 282.2 of CC RF) and financing an extremist organization (part 1, article 282.3 of CC RF). The believer did not acknowledge guilt.


We recall that on 4 June 2020, during the debates, the prosecution asked for seven and a half years in a colony of general regime for Shpakovsky.


In April 2017, the Russian Supreme Court ruled that the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia was an extremist organization and it liquidated it. In August of the same year, all congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses were entered into the list of forbidden extremist organizations.


The Memorial human rights center considers that the detained Jehovah's Witnesses are political prisoners and it demands ending the prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses connected with their religious affiliation. (tr. by PDS, posted 10 June 2020)



Credo.Press, 9 June 2020


On 9 July, Judge Galina Belik of the Pskov city court sentenced 61-year-old Gennady Shpakovsky of Pskov to 6.5 years in a penal colony of general regime, a Credo.Press portal correspondent reports, citing sources from among Russian Jehovah's Witnesses. They said that the entire guilt of the believe consists in group discussion of the Bible with friends.


The court found Gennady Shpakovsky guilty of arranging the activity of an extremist organization and of financing it, having concluded that religious meetings with fellow believers are not an exercise of the private right to freedom of religious confession but the continuation of the activity of the legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses that had been liquidated by decisions of courts.


Gennady Shpakovsky totally denies he is guilty of extremism. In his appeal to the judge in his final word he recalled that in soviet times millions of citizens were repressed on the basis of false charges, including Jehovah's Witnesses, who later were rehabilitated by authorities. "Most unfortunately, history is being repeated. Today I and my fellow believers are being treated in a similar way. We are being accused of monstrous crimes, which do not only disagree with my Christian convictions but also are incompatible with the consciousness of a sane person," the believer said.


"The evidence in the case consists only in reports that I profess the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses and, among other things, I met with fellow believers to view video recordings of worship services, sang songs with them, prayed to Jehovah God, and discussed my convictions with others," Gennady Shpakovsky declared, and he explained that not a single one of these actions is mentioned in the law "On combating extremist activity."


The believer cited the explanation by the Russian government to the effect that the judicial prohibition of 396 organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses rendered in 2017 "does not give an assessment of the religious teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses and does not contain a restriction or prohibition of professing the aforementioned teachings on an individual basis."


"It is paradoxical, but in one of the last sessions, Judge Belik personally emphasized that profession of a religion and group meetings and prayers are not crimes but are the right of citizens of Russia enshrined in article 28 of the Russian constitution," Shpakovsky's lawyer Arli Chimirov explained. Before that, Belik declared that the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses is unacceptable in Russian society and she suggested to the believers that they depart for a place where their faith is "more needed."


Gennady Shpakovsky became the eleventh Russian Jehovah's Witness sent to prison for faith since 2017. The criminal case against the believer was opened in early 2018. Before that, security forces trailed the believer for several months. On 3 June 2018 he was arrested in the apartment of friends at a time when they were peacefully discussing the Bible. Armed personnel of the F.S.B., joined by OMON troops, broke down a door and in the course of six hours they searched the residence, after which they interrogated believers in the department of law enforcement agencies for several more hours. The security forces persuaded some of them to incriminate themselves, threatening them with a ten-year prison term, dismissal from work, and other problems.


The decision to rule all 396 religious organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia to be extremist and to liquidate them was made by the Russian Supreme Court. (tr. by PDS, posted 10 June 2020)

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