Mon, 20 Sep 2021

A court in southern Russia has sentenced three Jehovah's Witnesses to prison for belonging to the banned religious group, in the latest persecution against its members.

The Leninskiy District Court in Rostov-on-Don sentenced Arsen Avanesov and Aleksandr Parkov to 61/2 years in prison on July 29. Arsen's father, Vilen Avanesov, was given six years.

The three have been in pretrial detention since raids were conducted on residences of Jehovah's Witnesses in Rostov-on-Don in May 2019.

They will appeal the sentences, the Jehovah's Witnesses said.

Russia labeled the Jehovah's Witnesses an extremist group and banned it in 2017, leading to a wave of court cases and prison sentences against its members.

For decades, the Jehovah's Witnesses have been viewed with suspicion in Russia, where the dominant Orthodox Church is championed by President Vladimir Putin.

The Christian group is known for door-to-door preaching, close Bible study, rejection of military service, and not celebrating national and religious holidays or birthdays.

According to the group, dozens of Jehovah's Witnesses were either convicted of extremism or are in pretrial detention.

The Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized dozens of Jehovah's Witnesses who've been charged with or convicted of extremism as political prisoners.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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