MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian court in Siberia jailed a Jehovah’s Witness adherent for six years on Wednesday after finding him guilty of extremist activity, his lawyer said, part of a crackdown on the religious group.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have been under pressure for years in Russia, where the dominant Orthodox Church is championed by President Vladimir Putin. Masked law enforcement officers carried out mass raids on the religion’s adherents in Russia last month.
Yuriy Savelyev, 66, was sentenced by a court in Novosibirsk, around 1,740 miles (2,800 km) east of Moscow, his lawyer, Vitaliy Svintsov, told Reuters. Svintsov said Savelyev would appeal the decision.
The court confirmed the ruling on its website.
“Convicting Yuriy, a peaceful 66-year-old Christian, to six years in prison is patently absurd,” said Jarrod Lopes, a U.S.-based spokesman for the group.
“It also defies international human rights norms, which is why the European Union, Britain, the United States and the United Nations have repeatedly called on Russia to stop the systematic persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Prosecutors had asked the court to sentence Savelyev to eight years in prison, Lopes added.
Russia’s Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that the group was an “extremist” organisation and ordered it to disband, a decision that was followed by a crackdown which has seen dozens of adherents jailed and hundreds hit with criminal charges.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian denomination known for door-to-door preaching, close Bible study, and rejection of military service and blood transfusions.
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