In Belogorsk, Amur Region, the court sentenced 71-year-old Jehovah’s Witness Vladimir Balabkin, who is suffering from cancer, to four years in prison. This is reported by “OVD-Info”.
He was accused under the article “organization of activities of an extremist organization”. The prosecutor asked for six and a half years of imprisonment for him. In his last words, Balakin stated that “it is possible to disagree with the faith and teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but putting them in the same line as extremists, as the President of Russia said, is wrong.”
The criminal case against Balabkin was initiated in March 2021. At the same time, Balabkin and five other residents of Belogorsk were searched. Later, Balabkin received the status of a suspect in the case, and on February 2, 2022, he became an accused. On April 11, 2023, the case was brought to court.
It was based on the testimony of a man named Khodunkin, who filmed meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses on video on behalf of the FSB.
- In the five years since Jehovah’s Witnesses were recognized as an extremist organization in Russia, more than 650 followers of this religious movement have been criminally prosecuted. Only last year, cases were opened against 77 Jehovah’s Witnesses. Despite the fact that back in 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the recognition of witnesses as extremists “nonsense”. He declared that they are “also Christians” and there is no reason to persecute them.
- In June 2022, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the decisions of the Russian authorities to liquidate the church, ban its activities and seize property violated the rights of believers.