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The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Apr 10 2020

The Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized another 130 Jehovah’s Witnesses as political prisoners and politically persecuted.

The total number of Jehovah’s Witnesses currently being prosecuted for their faith in Russia has exceeded 330 people.

24 of 130 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been recognized as political prisoners. Among those 24, 15 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been placed in custody, and nine have been placed under house arrest. The other 106 believers are recognized as persecuted for politically-motivated reasons. They also have been subjects of criminal investigations, but courts haven’t chosen to keep them in jail or impose other restrictions of liberty until trial.

Most Jehovah’s Witnesses are accused of organizing the activities of an extremist organization (Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code), participation in it (Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code), or involvement in its activities (Part 1.1 of Article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code). Some are also charged with financing extremist activities (Part 1 of Article 282.3 of the Russian Criminal Code).

There are total of 50 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Memorial Human Rights Center’s list of political prisoners on charges of religious affiliation. 33 of them are in custody and 17 are under house arrest.

279 believers are persecuted without imprisonment.

Nine people have already been sentenced to real terms of up to six years. Six people have been placed on probation. 10 believers received sentences not related to deprivation of liberty, or their punishment was abolished due to a decriminalization of some articles of the Criminal Code.

Since the beginning of mass repressions against Jehovah’s Witnesses in April 2017, at least 339 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been prosecuted, and this figure continues to grow.

A regularly updated list of people prosecuted for belonging to the Jehovah’s Witness faith is available on The Memorial Human Rights Center website.

The Memorial Human Rights Center considers the designation of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ organizations as extremist to be unjustified and in violation of both freedom of conscience and the right of association. The criminal prosecution of followers of this peaceful religion is unlawful and discriminatory. The Memorial Human Rights Center considers that all Jehovah’s Witnesses held in custody or under house arrest to be political prisoners and urges their immediate release. The Memorial Human Rights Center demands that all charges against Jehovah’s Witnesses, on whom other forms of pre-trial restriction have been imposed, be dropped.

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Activatica.org (Estonia)Activatica.org (Estonia) Article 20 (Russia)Article 20 (Russia) Euromaidan SOS (Ukraine)Euromaidan SOS (Ukraine) Free Russia Foundation (U.S., Russia, Ukraine, Georgia)Free Russia Foundation (U.S., Russia, Ukraine, Georgia) Human Rights Foundation (United States)Human Rights Foundation (United States) Action for Post-Soviet Jewry (United States)Action for Post-Soviet Jewry (United States) Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice (United States)Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice (United States) Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine) McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University (United States)McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University (United States) Solidarus (Germany)Solidarus (Germany) Union of Council for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (United States)Union of Council for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (United States) Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (Canada)Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (Canada) NEP Prague (Czech Republic)NEP Prague (Czech Republic)