Repression of Jehovah's Witnesses taken to new level


Radio Liberty, 24 February 2021


In Khakassia, a seventy-year-old woman from the Jehovah's Witnesses was sentenced to two years in a penal colony after she was found guilty on the basis of the article about participating in a forbidden organization.


The verdict against Valentina Baranovskaia was issued on 24 February by the Abakan city court. Her son, Roman Varanovsky, was sentenced to six years in a penal colony on the basis of a more severe portion of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code, concerning arranging the activity of a forbidden organization. The decision still has not taken legal effect and it will be appealed.


The case is based on notes of conversations of believers, which show that they are adherents of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses. There were no expressions of an extremist nature in their conversations. The case does not have a single victim, as was noted in a report from the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses. The Baranovsky son and mother, who were placed in custody after the announcement of the verdict, insist on their complete innocence.


"Today's decision, according to which an elderly woman and her son were given, on groundless charges, real time prison terms, takes the repression against Jehovah's Witnesses to a new level. Such severity has no justification. Contemporary Russia is approaching the Soviet Union on the level of groundless religious persecution," a representative of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, Yaroslav Sivulsky, emphasized.


In the summer of last year, before the start of judicial hearings, Valentina Baranovskaia was diagnosed with cerebral thrombosis, or an ischemic stroke. According to physicians, the defendant was in the hospital in moderately severe condition. She will be 70 years old in April of this year.


Also on Wednesday it was learned that in Birobidzhan, the F.S.B. opened two criminal cases against a local woman resident, Agnessa Postnikova. According to information on the website of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, cases were opened on the basis of the articles about participation in an extremist organization and encouraging participation in it. Earlier, a criminal case on similar articles was opened against Agnessa Postnikova's spouse, Oleg.


As the website Sibir.Realii notes, in total, in the Jewish autonomous oblast at least 19 cases have been opened against 22 adherents of the religious movement. (tr. by PDS, posted 24 February 2021)



OVD-Info, 24 February 2021


The Abakan city court of the republic of Khakassia issued on 24 February a sentence to two Jehovah's Witnesses. Forty-six-year-old Roman Baranovsky was found guilty of arranging the activity of an extremist organization (part 1 of article 282.2 of the CC) and he was sentenced to six years incarceration in a penal colony of ordinary regime with suspension of the right to occupy leadership posts for a period of five years, and his mother, 69-year-old Valentina Baranovskaia, was sentenced on the basis of part 2 of article 282.2 of the CC (participation in the activity of an extremist organization) to two years incarceration in a colony of ordinary regime. This was reported by the SOVA Center for News and Analysis.


Both also received additional punishments in the form of restriction of liberty: Roman, for a year and six months, and Valentina, for six months. The prosecutor had asked to sentence the Baranovskys to eight years with a year of restriction of liberty and to five years with a year of restriction of liberty, respectively.


According to the account of the investigation, from December 2017 to April 2019, the Baranovskys, while knowing about the legal finding that the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, "Southern. Abakan," was extremist, arranged and carried out its activity, spreading its ideology. This was expressed in the fact that they "systematically conducted worship services and religious gatherings, organized the collection of funds for the needs of the organization from members of the religious organization, controlled their collection and disbursement, and established and maintained international communications and contacts with members of organizations that are part of the structure of the worldwide organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, including for purposes of pilgrimage for getting  religious education."


The criminal case against Roman Baranovsky and his mother, Valentina Baranovskaia, was opened on 21 March 2019. Originally they were charged with arranging the activity of a forbidden organization (part 1 of article 282.2 CC RF). Then the charge was reclassified for Valentina Baranovskaia to participation in the activity of a liquidated organization (part 2 of article 282.2 CC RF). (tr. by PDS, posted 24 February 2021)

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