Appeals court frees Jehovah's Witness while retaining restrictions on activity


Kommersant, 17 September 2020


The Penza oblast court mitigated the sentence for Penza resident Vladimir Alushkin, who was found guilty in December of last year of organizing an extremist religious congregation. According to the account of the investigation, Alushkin and his five supporters created in Penza the "Arbekovo. Penza" religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses (considered extremist and banned in the R.F.).


In December of last year, the Lenin district court of Penza sentenced 55-year-old Vladimir Alushkin to six years incarceration in a penal colony of general regime. The court found that from September 2017 to July 2018, Alushkin, along with five fellow believers, organized a forbidden religious congregation. The people prayed together and sang songs "which contained evidence of inciting hatred (strife) toward a person of group of persons based on their attitude toward religion." In addition, according to the court's verdict, Vladimir Alushkin collected donations from fellow believers "for the purpose of continuing the illegal activity of the organization."


"After a review of the sentence in appellate and cassation instances, on 16 September 2020 a new appellate review of the case was held in the Penza oblast court, in the course of which the assigned basic penalty was reduced to a suspended four years of incarceration, with a probationary period of three years and deprivation of the right of engaging in activity connected with leading and participating in the work of public religious organizations for a period of two years plus restriction of liberty for one year," the oblast court explained. What motivated the court to change the sentence was not reported. The rest of the sentence remains unchanged. (tr. by PDS, posted 17 September 2020)



by Natalia Savankova

Rossiiskaia Gazeta, 17 September 2020


The Penza oblast court reviewed a previously issued sentence of a 56-year-old resident of Penza, who was found guilty of organizing a religious association that had been liquidated by a court decision because of the conduct of extremist activity. This refers to the local "Arbekovo. Penza" local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses. Instead of real time in prison he received a suspended term.


From September 2017 to 15 July 2018, the defendant and five of his followers engaged in religious activity that had been ruled to be extremist. The pertinent ruling of the Russian Supreme Court came out in April 2017.


"According to materials of the criminal case, at meetings of the Penza cell, video recordings were played and religious songs were sung, which contained evidence of arousing hatred against a person or group of persons on religious grounds. The court also established that collection of money in the form of donations from members of the organization and other persons who were followers of the teaching was organized, which subsequently was sent on to the 'Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia,'" the press service of the Penza oblast court explained.


After a review of the sentence in appellate and cassation instances, the basic penalty for the organizer of the Penza cell was reduced to four years in prison, suspended, with a probationary term of three years. The verdict has taken legal effect. (tr. by PDS, posted 17 September 2020)



Memorial Human Rights Center, 17 September 2020


Vladimir Alushkin was previously sentenced to six years in a penal colony, but now he has been given four years suspended. The verdict for another five believers remained without change; they were each given suspended sentences of two years.


On 16 September, the Penza oblast court again issued a sentence in the case of six local Jehovah's Witnesses. This was reported by Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.


Vladimir Alushkin was give four years in prison, suspended. Previously he had been sentenced to six years in a penal colony of general regime on a charge of arranging the activity of an extremist organization (part 1, article 282.2 CC RF). The sentence against another five subjects of the case—Andrei Magliv, Vladimir Kuliasov, Denis Timoshin, Tatiana Alushkina, and Galia Olkhova—remained without change. They earlier received a suspended two years of imprisonment each, with a probationary term of three years. All of them were found guilty of participating in the activity of an extremist organization (part 2, article 282.2 CC RF).


According to the account of the investigation, Alushkin, knowing for certain about the ban on the local "Arbekovo. Penza" religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, which had been liquidated as a structural subdivision of the "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia," from July 2017 to July 2018 organized its meetings, collected funds "in the form of donations," drew participants into the activity of the organization, and disposed of its property. The other defendants, according to the investigation, participated in meetings and congresses, provided their residences for conducting religious events, and performed preaching activity.


On 15 July 2018, the believers were arrested. While Alushkin was put into a SIZO, Kuliasov, Magliv, and Timoshin were placed in house arrest, and Alushkina and Olkhova were released on their own recognizance. On 14 January 2019, Vladimir Alushkin was transferred to house arrest. On 13 December he was taken into custody in the courtroom.


In April 2017, the Russian Supreme Court ruled the "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" to be an extremist organization and 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 rights advocacy center considers the detained Jehovah's Witnesses to be political prisoners and demands the halting of prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses because of their religious affiliation. (tr. by PDS, posted 17 September 2020)
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