Stanton, February 10 -- Just as some politicians tell new lies to distract attention from their old ones, the Putin regime commits ever more outrages against its own population, a pattern that among other things means that often the continuation or expansion of earlier abuses goes without the attention and condemnation it deserves.
That is what is at risk of happening regarding Moscow’s continuing crackdown against the Jehovah’s Witnesses (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/11/more-than-400-jehovahs-witnesses-have.html). But two new actions should revive attention to these violations of Russian and international law and demands that Moscow end the repression.
A Krasnoyarsk court has sentenced 63-year-old Aleksandr Ivshin to seven years in a prison camp for his activities as a Jehovah’s Witness. This is the longest sentence a Russian court has imposed on a Witness since Moscow banned the denomination in April 2017. Ivshin’s lawyers say they will appeal (credo.press/235696/).
Prosecutors said he had violated the law by discussing the Bible with friends from a neighboring city. They wanted an eight-year sentence, but the court reduced it to seven, presumably because of his age. Ivshin denies any guilt and in his last words before being taken away, he thanked his family and friends for their support.
Yaroslav Sivulsky of the European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses said that “today’s sentence is shocking by its severity,” especially as it is far from an isolated incident and because it appears that the Russian authorities are again stepping up their campaign against the faith, despite Vladimir Putin’s call for not punishing anyone for his or her religious beliefs.
(The Kremlin leader received a lot of positive reaction for his words; but despite what many assumed, they have not had the impact many hoped for. “believers continue to be persecuted” around the Russian Federation.)
In the second case today, Russian media say police had searched 16 addresses in Moscow looking for Jehovah’s Witnesses who were sharing their faith via the Internet. According to the authorities, evidence of “conspiracy” was found in one of the apartments, and charges of organizing an extremist group have been lodged (credo.press/235689/).
If those charged in this case are convicted and then give the maximum prison term, they could be behind bars as long as for ten years. As Credo Press notes, the only “logic” behind such actions is a belief among Russian officials that “faith in God as the Jehovah’s Witnesses understand it, is ‘a continuation of the activity of an extremist organization.”