Russian rights advocate defends Jehovah's Witness couple



Judge Ivan Bogomolov of the Sverdlovsk district court of Kostroma sentenced Jehovah's Witnesses Sergei and Valeria Raiman to suspended sentences of 8 and 7 years respectively. This was more than the state prosecution asked for. The believer's crime was joint domestic discussion of the Bible. The sentence has not taken legal effect, the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses told on 12 October.


On the basis of the submission of the state prosecution, the court found the married couple guilty simultaneously of both organizing and participating in the activity of an extremist organization (parts 1 and 2 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the RF). The state prosecution asked the court to issue for them a punishment in the form of 7 years of incarceration, suspended, for each. The believers continue to insist on their complete innocence.


As lawyer Yaroslav Sivulsky from the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses noted:  "The fact that the court simultaneously found the couple guilty on two mutually contradictory articles testifies to the complete incomprehension of the essence of the case."


In reality, Sergei and Valeria simply exercised their constitutional right to freedom of religious confession, "which has nothing to do with extremist activity." As Sergei Raiman said in his final word, for some reason the attempt to implement their religious convictions, which no court has forbidden, appears to be a crime from the point of view of the investigation. His wife, Valeria, noted that the prosecution on the part of the authorities has left an impact on their life and on their physical and emotional health. For more that two years now, the family has been living with continuous stress and alarm. And all of this on account of an unjust accusation of extremism.


The story began early in the morning in July 2018: knocking out the door with a crow bar, armed security forces and television cameras. The young couple from Kostroma was accused of extremism merely for participating in worship services. For a year and a half of investigation, the couple survived the cramped, single cell of a SIZO, and a ban on correspondence and reading of the Bible because it contained a map of ancient Palestine, and electronic ankle monitoring, and restriction on communication with "persons who profess the teaching of Jehovah" and even with one another. A year-long investigation led to such a vague accusation that the court returned the case to the prosecutor. It soon came back to the court and now has led to a verdict. (tr. by PDS, posted 13 October 2020)

Background articles:

Longest prison term yet for Jehovah's Witness
October 9, 2020
Russian court finally agrees with Jehovah's Witnesses' claims
October 1, 2019

More details in case of Kostroma Jehovah's Witnesses
August 2, 2018

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