Longest prison term yet for Jehovah's Witness


Kostroma Today, 9 October 2020


They will challenge the verdict


The married couple Sergei and Valeria Raiman, who today were found guilty of creating the Kostroma organization of Jehovah's Witnesses (forbidden in Russia and ruled extremist), were greeted today at the courtroom with flowers from relatives, friends, and fellow believers, a Kostroma Today correspondent reports.


As we have already related, the court found the young people guilty on the basis of articles 282.2, part 1, and 292, part 2—"arranging the activity of an extremist organization and participating in it"—and sentenced Sergei to 8 years in prison and Valeria to 7.


At the same time, Judge Dmitry Balaev ruled that the prison term be considered suspended. Perhaps he took into account the fact that the young family had never in their life even been held administratively accountable, both work, and their employers gave them good character references.


The verdict was read for more than two hours. Judging by the text, the court practically totally agreed with the investigation and the prosecutor's office, and considered it proven that the young couple created a religious organization. The Raimans themselves and their defense say that they are being convicted for their faith, although it is not forbidden to be a Jehovah's Witness in Russia.


"We shall appeal the verdict, even though it is a suspended term, eight years for Sergei and seven years for Valeria, but this is very serious. As we were able to hear, they have been convicted for their faith in God. For the fact that they sat and read the Bible, or they discussed biblical truths among themselves. We think that the court based the sentence on  arguments that were not examined during the judicial session, and in sufficiently great quantity," Valeria Raimana's lawyer, Evgeny Shemberger, related to a Kostroma Today correspondent.


As was said in the verdict, the probationary term for the young couple consists of five years.  They must regularly report to the police and they cannot change their place of residence without permission, nor lose their jobs.


Young people greeted with applause


Judging by the reaction of friends and fellow believers of Sergei and Valeria, who greeted them with flowers at the Sverdlovsk court, they are pleased that the sentence was suspended. In some regions, Witnesses have been given completely real terms.


"We are pleased that the sentence is suspended. On the other hand, it is unpleasant for us that we were convicted for faith in God, and therefore we shall appeal. [As regards the probationary term], so, as the court also said, Jehovah's Witnesses are law-abiding people. We are already used to the fact that over the course of two years we have been spied on, wire-tapped, and so forth, and we hope for better in the future and that everything will be fixed. Our religion is not forbidden, and every person has the right to freedom of religious confession," Sergei Raiman told a K.T. correspondent.


The prosecutor's office in Kostroma explained to us that they will be able to speak about the verdict when they have studied its text in detail. (tr. by PDS, posted 9 October 2020)



Verdict was read for a long time today in Sverdlovsk court

Kostroma Today, 9 October 2020


The Sverdlovsk court of Kostroma just now issued a verdict for Jehovah's Witnesses (an organization considered extremist and forbidden in Russia), Kostroma Today has learned.


The court sentenced Sergei Raiman to a suspended sentence of eight years imprisonment, and Valeria to seven years, with a probationary term of five years.


Practically the whole verdict of the judge, in the opinion of observers, consisted of excerpts from the speeches of the prosecutor. There were mentioned expert analyses and other important things on which the prosecution relied.


We recall that the young husband and wife were arrested in the summer of 2018. They were charged with creating the Kostroma department of a religious organization that is forbidden in Russia. Since then the judicial process has dragged on. Sergei has already spent two months in a SIZO, though later he was released on his own recognizance.


Sergei and Valeria, with the help of their attorneys, argued to the last that they had not created any kind of organizations but they simply believed in God, improved themselves, and simply wanted to become good people. (tr. by PDS, posted 9 October 2020)



State Internet Channel, 9 October 2020


They conducted illegal activity in the oblast center after the organization was ruled in Russia to be extremist.


In Kostroma, a guilty verdict was issued for organizers of the city cell of Jehovah's Witnesses. By a decision of the Supreme Court, this organization had been ruled to be forbidden in Russia in April 2017. But despite that, from August a married couple began conducting activity of a local cell in the oblast center.


The criminals distributed extremist literature and videos among residents of the city, promoting the religious teaching of the forbidden organization and attracting thereby new members into it. In addition, the couple coordinated the work of the city cell and provided their apartment for worship services, preaching, and religious study classes. At the same time, the owners actively participated in them.


The cell of Jehovah's Witnesses in Kostroma was discovered by personnel of the directorate of the Russian F.S.B. for Kostroma oblast, and in July 2018 the activity of the forbidden organization was cut off. The investigation department of the Investigative Committee of Russia [S.K.R.] for Kostroma oblast opened a criminal case.


By decision of the Sverdlovsk district court, the man was giving a punishment in the form of an eight-year suspended sentence and his wife, a seven-year suspended sentence. At the same time, both convicts were given a five-year probationary term. Besides, an additional punishment was issued for the couple in the form of restricted liberty and denial of the right to engage in activity connected with leadership and participation in the work of religious organizations. (tr. by PDS, posted 9 October 2020)

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