Moscow, February 8, Interfax - Over 100 Jehovah's Witnesses have been implicated in criminal cases since the activities of this religious organization were banned in Russia, Yaroslav Sivulsky, a representative of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, said.
"Some 50 cases have been opened on the basis of Article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code - that is, we are facing at least another 50 criminal proceedings in 33 regions of Russia. One hundred and fifteen people have become victims of prosecution with various statuses: accused, suspect, defendant, or convict," Sivulsky said at a press conference on Friday.
Among these people are 90 men and 25 women, including seven people older than 70, he said.
Jehovah's Witness Dennis Christensen, who was sentenced to six years in prison by a court in Oryol on February 6, was convicted "just for thinking that his religion is the truth," Sivulsky said.
In designating the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia illegal, the Supreme Court "put an extremist label on 175,000 good citizens," he said.
"Some 5,000 Jehovah's Witnesses had to leave Russia, fearing for themselves and their children," Sivulsky said.
In July 2016, an Oryol court found the activities of a group of Jehovah's Witnesses in Oryol to be extremist and ruled to break it up. The Supreme Court upheld that decision in October 2016.
On April 20, 2017, the Supreme Court ordered that the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and its local religious organizations be shut down due to their extremist activities, banning their functioning in Russian territory. The Supreme Court's Board of Appeals upheld that decision on July 17, 2017.
Christensen was arrested on May 25, 2017.