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Russia Jails Jehovah's Witness For Three Years Amid Intensifying Crackdown


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

ABINSK, Russia -- A court in southwestern Russia has handed a three-year prison term to a Jehovah's Witness amid an ongoing crackdown on the religious group that has been banned in Russia since 2017.

The Abinsk district court in the Krasnodar region sentenced Vasily Meleshko on August 12 after finding him guilty of taking part in the activities of an "extremist organization."

Meleshko admitted to being a Jehovah's Witness but rejected the charge.

Yaroslav Sivulsky of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses told RFE/RL that Meleshko and his wife had been members of the local parish for 30 years and that the authorities had never caused any problems for them before.

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, rejection of military service, and refusal to mark national and religious holidays or birthdays.

Since the faith was outlawed, many Jehovah's Witnesses have been imprisoned in Russia and Crimea, which was seized by Moscow from Ukraine in 2014.

According to the group, dozens of Jehovah's Witnesses have either been convicted of extremism or have been 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.

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