IN SARATOV SECOND SENTENCE OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES TO REAL PRISON TIME ISSUED
Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 19 September 2019
On 19 September 2019, Judge Dmitry Larin of the Lenin district court of Saratov sentenced six residents of the city to various prison terms based on their religious confession. Such a harsh sentence for faith in Jehovah was the second in the history of contemporary Russia.
The Lenin district court of Saratov ordered to sentence Konstantin Bazhenov and Aleksei Budenchuk to 3 years, 6 months imprisonment; Feliks Makhammadiev, to 3 years; and Roman Gridasov, Gennady German, and Aleksei Miretsky, to 2 years. Also all were sentenced additionally to a penalty of prohibition to occupy a leadership position in public organizations for a term of 5 years and restriction of liberty for one year. All were charged on the basis of part 1 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the RF (arranging the activity of an extremist organization). The defendants were placed in custody in the courtroom for transportation to a SIZO.
The court ignored the fact that in 30 volumes of the criminal case there is not a single victim nor a single negative consequence of the alleged "extremist activity" of the defendants. The entire logic of the accusation was built on the speculative thesis that faith in God is "continuation of the activity of an extremist organization." As a consequence of such an approach, instead of searching for and proving the guilt of the defendants, the prosecutor's office was busy "proving" their profession of a certain religion, while no religion is forbidden in Russia. After "proving" the religious confession of the defendants, which they did not conceal, the investigation suggested to automatically interpret this fact as the activity of a banned legal entity. The absurdity of this logic did not embarrass the court, and he equated peaceful believers with dangerous criminals. Earlier, Konstantin Bazhenov, Aleksei Budenchuk, and Feliks Makhammadiev had already spent almost a year in the SIZO. All of the accused are ordinary residents of Saratov who had not been previously convicted and all of them have families. Two children of Aleksei Budenchuk are still in school. Konstantin Bazhenov is a mason by profession, Feliks Makhammadiev is a hairdresser, Roman Gridasov is a construction engineer, Gennady German is an artist, and Aleksei Miretsky is a kandidat of economics. In their final word, the believers quoted the Bible and noted that they do not hold a grudge against their persecutors.
The sentence in the case of the six Saratovans was the sixth guilty verdict for professing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses in modern Russia. Before this, Dennis Christensen, Sergei Skrynnikov, Alexander Soloviev, Valery Moskalenko and 16 believers in Taganrog were sentenced to various measures of punishment. Only Dennis Christensen is in a penal colony at the present time; his appeal has been accepted for consideration in the European Court of Human Rights. The list of Russians who have been convicted for faith in Jehovah has grown sharply and consists of 26 persons, and the number of those imprisoned for this "crime" has grown from 1 to 7.
The convicts insist that they have nothing to do with extremist. The defense attorneys intend to appeal the unjust sentence. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 September 2019)
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