Jehovah's Witnesses from Kursk lose their appeal


Credo.Press, 21 January 2022


On 20 January, a Kursk oblast court denied an appeal against a guilty verdict by a trial court for Jehovah's Witnesses Andrei Andreev, Andrei Ryshkov, Alexander Vospitaniuk, and Artem and Alevtina Bagratian. Thus the sentence has taken legal effect and the convicts received real prison time for their faith, a correspondent of the Credo.Press portal reports, citing a source among Russian Jehovah's Witnesses.


One of the convicts, Andrei Ryshkov, was released from a SIZO on the day of the announcement of the decision. He had completely served the prison term, having been in the holding cell [SIZO] almost two years. The other convicted believers will be transported to penal colonies.


On 3 June 2021, the Promyshlenny district court of Kursk found the five Jehovah's Witnesses guilty of extremism for their profession of faith. Andrei Andreev received a sentence of 4.5 years in a penal colony; Andrei Ryshkov, 3 years; and Alevtina Bagratian, 2 years. Alevtina's husband Artem Bagratian was sentenced to 2.5 years in a penal colony, but he had completed his term while in the SIZO and he was released in June 2021. The court gave Alexander Vospitaniuk a suspended sentence of two years.


The believers appealed the guilty verdict.


The Russian F.S.B. directorate for Kursk oblast opened the criminal case against the Kursk believers in September 2019. Around a month later, on 16 October, groups of law enforcement personnel descended on their homes with searches and accused them of arranging and continuing the activity of a forbidden religious organization.


During the judicial proceedings the defense called the court's attention to falsifications in the materials of the case, and several witnesses renounced testimonies given earlier, explaining that the investigation had pressured them. They also said that there was information in the materials that they had not communicated to the law enforcers.


During the course of the judicial proceedings, the prosecution gave proof of what none of the defendants was hiding—that they belonged to the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. Just what real crimes against the state and society the believers had been committed, the prosecutor did not explain. (tr. by PDS, posted 21 January 2022)

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