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Three ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Sentenced To 6 Years in the Penal Colony

On October 2, 2022, Olga Berdnikova, ‘judge’ of ‘Nakhimovsky District Court’ of Sevastopol found three Jehovah’s Witnesses guilty of extremism. Mr.Yevgeniy Zhukov, Mr.Vladimir Maladyka and Mr.Vladimir Sakada were sentenced to 6 years in the penal colony each.

In addition, the “court” imposed a 1 year’s restriction on travel after serving the sentence. They were also banned to publish anything in the media and the Internet for 7 years.

According to the organization, Mr.Zhukov, Mr.Maladyka and Mr.Sakada were taken into custody in the “court” hall, and transported to the Pre-trial Detention Center No. 1 in Simferopol. They all intend to appeal the verdict.

“As “evidence” of the believers’ guilt, the investigation used hidden video recordings of worship services made by FSB agents. In the video, believers pray, sing, and discuss the Bible. During the court hearings, Vladimir Sakada stated that the videorecords presented to the experts and the court “were subjected to unauthorized changes.” However, the court refused to verify this physical evidence,” the organization said.

According to the organization data, 16 ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ in total have been persecuted for the faith in Crimea, including 4 serving the sentence in the penal colonies.

To remind:

  • in October 2020, security men searched at least 9 residents of Sevastopol. On the same day, the FSB opened a criminal case against Yevgeniy Zhukov, Mr.Vladimir Maladyka and Mr.Vladimir Sakada under the article “organizing the activities of an extremist organization” (part 1 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).
  • On October 2, 2020, the “Leninskiy District Court” of Sevastopol detained four members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization: Yevgeniy Zhukov, Mr.Vladimir Maladyka, Mr.Vladimir Sakada and Igor Shmidt.

As reported by the Crimean Human Rights Group, on April 20, 2017, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation declared Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organization and banned its activities on the territory of the Russian Federation. On August 16, 2017, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation added Crimean units of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ to the list of extremist organizations. In 2018, criminalization of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ persecution started. In 2020, the first imprisonment sentences were passed on the members of the ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ organization.

The CHRG considers these lawsuits as religious persecution and a violation of the right to freedom of religion. According to international law, Russia has no right to apply its criminal law in the occupied territory and prosecute persons who are not criminals in terms of Ukrainian law. This is a war crime that falls under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

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