Accessibility links

Breaking News


Danish national Dennis Christensen, a Jehovah's Witness believer, was sentenced to six years in a Russian prison in February.

Russian authorities in the southwestern city of Saratov have convicted and handed prison sentences to six Jehovah's Witnesses, a religious group that Moscow has outlawed and labeled as "extremist."

They were found guilty of taking part in the activities of an extremist organization and their sentences ranged from 2 to 3 1/2 years, the confession's New York-based headquarters said in a September 19 news release.

They are: Konstantin Bazhenov and Aleksei Budenchuk, Feliks Makhammadiyev, Roman Gridasov, Gennady German, and Aleksei Miretsky.

The six intend to appeal their verdicts.

Jehovah's Witness spokesman Jarrod Lopes said the six were being sent to jail "for their peaceful Christian worship."

In 2017, Russia banned the religious group and deemed it an "extremist organization," a designation the U.S. State Department describes as "wrongful."

Since the faith was outlawed, one Jehovah's Witness has been imprisoned in Russia.

Danish national Dennis Christensen was detained in May 2017 in Oryol, some 320 kilometers south of Moscow. A Russian court in February sentenced him to six years in a case condemned both in Russia and abroad.

On September 10, the United States banned two high-ranking regional officers in Russia's Investigative Committee from entering the country for allegedly torturing seven Jehovah's Witness believers.

Vladimir Yermolayev, head of the Investigative Committee in the city of Surgut, and Stepan Tkach, a senior investigator, allegedly subjected the Jehovah's Witnesses "to suffocation, electric shocks, and severe beatings during interrogation."

As of this month, 251 Jehovah's Witnesses face criminal charges, 41 are either in pretrial detention or prison, 23 are under house arrest and more than 100 have had their freedom restricted, the religious group has said.

The Jehovah's Witnesses have been viewed with suspicion in Russia for decades, for its members' views about military service, voting, and government authority in general.

Laura Codruta Koevesi speaks to the press in Bucharest in March.

BRUSSELS -- EU ambassadors have decided to back former Romanian anti-corruption official Laura Codruta Koevesi to become the first-ever European anti-fraud prosecutor.

The European Council -- comprising ambassadors from all 28 EU member states -- made a U-turn after previously backing French prosecutor Jean-Francois Bohnert, while the European Parliament has supported Koevesi.

The EU ambassadors switched their support to the candidate backed by the lawmakers in a secret ballot on September 19 after France recently indicated it was shifting its position away from its own candidate toward Koevesi. Bohnert is reportedly likely to become head of France's office for financial crimes.

Seventeen ambassadors out of the 23 EU member states that will join the European Public Prosecutor's Office voted in favor of Koevesi.

Negotiations that started in February between the council and parliament were put on hold until after elections in May for a new European Parliament, but were resumed on September 17.

Marko Ruonala, the spokesman of the Finnish EU presidency, told RFE/RL that the informal vote on September 19 should be followed by a formal one in the council once the two teams of negotiators have met and come to a common position. The next meeting is scheduled for September 24.

"This is not the last word," Ruonala said after the vote.

Koevesi ran Romania's anti-corruption agency until she was dismissed last year by the leftist government for alleged abuse of power.

Critics say her dismissal was prompted by her prosecuting and indicting a record number of ministers, politicians, and other officials on corruption charges, in one of the bloc's most corrupt countries.

With reporting by

Load more

About This Blog

"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


Journalists In Trouble

RFE/RL journalists take risks, face threats, and make sacrifices every day in an effort to gather the news. Our "Journalists In Trouble" page recognizes their courage and conviction, and documents the high price that many have paid simply for doing their jobs. More