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Jehovah's Witness Gets Lengthy Prison Term In Crimea

Many Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia have been imprisoned for their beliefs. (file photo)
Many Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia have been imprisoned for their beliefs. (file photo)

SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine -- A Moscow-imposed court in the Russian-annexed Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea has sentenced a Jehovah's Witness to a lengthy prison term amid an ongoing crackdown against the religious group.

The Gagarin district court in the city of Sevastopol said on March 29 that it had sentenced a local resident to 6 1/2 years in prison after finding him guilty of organizing activities of the group that was labeled as extremist and banned in Russia in 2017, but is legal in Ukraine.

The court did not mention the man's name, but the Crimean Human Rights Group identified him as Viktor Stashevsky. Prosecutors had asked the court to sentence Stashevsky to seven years in prison.

Last week, Russia's Investigative Committee said that a 30-year-old resident of another Crimean city, Kerch, was detained on suspicion of being a member of the group.

Since the faith was outlawed in Russia, many Jehovah's Witnesses have been imprisoned in Russia and Russian-annexed Crimea.

The United States has condemned Russia's ongoing crackdown on Jehovah's Witnesses and other peaceful religious minorities.

For decades, the Jehovah's Witnesses have been viewed with suspicion in Russia, where the dominant Orthodox Church is championed by President Vladimir Putin.

The Christian group is known for door-to-door preaching, close Bible study, rejecting military service, and not celebrating national and religious holidays or birthdays.

According to the group, dozens of Jehovah's Witnesses were either convicted of extremism or are being held in pretrial detention.

The Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized dozens of Jehovah’s Witnesses who've been charged with or convicted of extremism as political prisoners.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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