Orel Jehovah's Witness avoided imprisonment


Court in Orel "displayed humanity;" it fined Jehovah's Witness 5,000 dollars for his faith.

by Anton Chivchalov

Credo.Press, 1 April 2019


The Zheleznodorozhny district court of the city of Orel today found yet a second of the local Jehovah's Witnesses to be guilty on the basis of the virtual article "extremism." Sergei Skrynnikov, a physical education school teacher, participated in worship services and just for that, in the opinion of the court, he is guilty of "participation in the activity of an extremist organization" (part 2, article 282.2 of CC RF). The prosecutor's office requested for Skrinnikov three years in a penal colony plus one year of restriction on travel.


The defendant turned his final word into a seven-minute sermon, bringing tears to the eyes of those present in the courtroom. Beginning with a history of persecutions of Jehovah's Witnesses in the U.S.S.R., he introduced quotations from the Bible and declared that he considers preaching in prison to be a new assignment from God, which he assumes with joy. "Today a new door is being opened for ministry in fundamentally new circumstances and new places. After all, for Jehovah's Witnesses, preaching the gospel in new places is a great honor," he said.


However, Judge Gleb Noskov, evidently on his own, recalled the Christian virtues and favored the believer with practically the minimum penalty possible under this article. In contrast with Dennis Christensen, who received six and a half years in a penal colony, Skrynnikov will have to pay a fine of 350,000 rubles (if the case is not reviewed). This is close to the lower limit of a fine under this article (300-600 thousand). Also it provides from 1 to 4 years forced labor or from 2 to 6 years incarceration. But this is a milder article than for the Dane—part 1, article 282.2 ("Arranging the activity of an extremist organization").


It is noteworthy that the court dismissed the charges of the prosecutor's office that the defendant encouraged the destruction of the family and the overthrow of the government. Judge Noskov found these charges "far-fetched," which is rather bold on his part. The popular myth about the Jehovah's Witnesses destroying the family does not find support even in a Russian court of the 2019 model, which is maximally prejudiced against religious minorities and already has experience in placing them behind bars. In 2010 the European Court of Human Rights also came to the conclusion that the accusation of destruction of the family by Jehovah's Witnesses is unfounded.


In Skrynnikov's case, as also in Christensen's, there is not a single aggrieved person or victim. Neither destroyed families nor stolen apartments were found—nothing of which the antisect websites declaim. "I have not killed anybody, I have not robbed anybody, I have not stolen anything from anybody, I have not even quarreled with anybody. This is attested by certificates from the village administration or the police inspector," the believer said in his final word. The prosecutor's office could not dispute this. But today these circumstances under certain conditions may not prevent finding a person guilty under a serious criminal article (and extremism is among the serious crimes).


The cases of Skrynnikov and Christensen show once again that defense against the state's "antiextremism" machine does not exist in Russia. If a citizen is "unlucky" with religion, then the state machine, rather than defending his good name, does everything in order to stigmatize him as an extremist. And a citizen will have to be happy and thankful that he got off with a fine of five thousand dollars. Evidently that is the minimum price for the right to believe in God apart from an order from above.


P.S.: It is unlikely that somebody has forgotten about it, but according to Russian laws we are required to write that in April 2017 the Russian Supreme Court ruled that all 396 religious organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia are extremist and it banned their activity. This decision has still not been overturned. (tr. by PDS, posted 1 April 2019)


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