Russian rights advocates defend prosecuted Jehovah's Witnesses


Kavkazskii Uzel, 12 October 2021


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A court in Krasnodar territory sentenced the Jehovah's Witness Vladimir Skachidub to four years and two months in a penal colony of medium security, having found him to be a member of an extremist organization, the Memorial Rights Center reported.


As Kavkazskii Uzel wrote, on 24 September it was learned that in the debates the prosecutor asked for 4.5 years in a medium security colony for the Jehovah's Witness from the village of Pavlovskaya, Vladimir Skachidub, who is accused of participating in the activity of an extremist organization.


On 11 October, the Pavlovskaya district court of Kuban sentenced the local Jehovah's Witness Vladimir Skachidub to four years and two months in a medium security penal colony.


The 59-year-old believer was found guilty of participating in the activity of an extremist organization (part 2 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the R.F.) and drawing new members into it (part 1.1 of article 282.2 of CC RF). According to the account of the investigation, he participated "in religious educational events—classes and sermons," during which "he spread the ideology" of Jehovah's Witnesses, the rights advocates explained.


The Memorial Rights Advocacy Center considers Jehovah's Witnesses who have been arrested to be political prisoners and it demands that prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses because of their religious affiliation cease, the article emphasizes. [. . .]


We recall that on 13 August a court sentenced 60-year-old Jehovah's Witness Vasily Meleshko from the Kuban village of Kholmskaya to three years in a penal colony. The believer was accused of conducting lectures and discussing religious books. Meleshko was the fourth Jehovah's Witness from the village of Kholmskaya who was sentenced for faith to real prison time, Memorial reported.


Jehovah's Witnesses have also been subjected to criminal prosecution in other regions of south Russia. However, in October 2020, in Kabardino-Balkaria, a court acquitted the local Jehovah's Witness Yury Zalipaev, who was accused of issuing calls for extremism. In September 2021, the Supreme Court of Kabardino-Balkaria ordered compensation of 500,000 rubles for Zalipaev, and the prosecutor apologized to believers for the baseless criminal prosecution.


Verdicts of acquittal for Jehovah's Witnesses are rare phenomena in the Russian legal system, commented Yaroslav Sivulsky, a representative of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, at the time of the court's decision in the Zalipaev case. "Such incidents inspire optimism and also, among other things, encourage us not to give up and to fight to the end. . . . This is a serious disruption in the life of a person who has not committed any real crime. Faith in God is not a crime," Sivulsky declared. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 October 2021)



Novaya Gazeta, 12 October 2021


The Pavlovskaya district court of Krasnodar sentenced a 59-year-old adherent of Jehovah's Witnesses, Vladimir Skachidub, to four years and two months in a medium security penal colony for participating in an extremist organization (part 2, article 282.2 CC) and drawing people into it (part 1.1, article 282.2 CC), the website of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia reports.


On 29 April 2020, security agents conducted a search of the home of Vladimir Skachidub, with a group 3 disability, and his wife, Galina, with a group 2 disability. Two months later, the F.S.B opened a criminal case against the man. The investigation called the meetings of believers and conversations about the Bible "dangerous for society and the state," and the investigator Vitaly Veter accused Skachidub of "performing the role of a preacher."


In his final word, the defendant declared his innocence. "My conscience is pure. I did not do anything evil against people nor against the state. And in God's eyes I will walk out of here acquitted," Skachidub said.


Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses believers began in 2017 after a Supreme Court decision finding this organization extremist. Since then, criminal cases have been regularly opened against them and searches in their homes have been conducted.


On 11 October, it was learned that adherents of the Jehovah's Witnesses were subjected to tortures during searches. Nikolai Merinov was kicked in the face and his front teeth were broken and Anatole Razdabarov was threatened with rape. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 October 2021)

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