A Russian court in Siberia has handed lengthy prison terms to two Jehovah's Witnesses, in the latest persecution of members of the banned Christian group.
The Investigative Committee said on January 20 that a court in the city of Seversk sentenced a Jehovah's Witness to seven years in prison after finding him guilty of organizing the activities of a "banned extremist group" in the city in the Tomsk region.
The court also ruled that after serving the term, the Jehovah's Witness, whose identity was not disclosed, will be on parole-like police control and barred from working at educational institutions or from posting any materials on the Internet for five years.
On January 19, another Jehovah's Witness in Seversk, 69-year-old Aleksei Yershov, was handed a two-year prison term for allegedly taking part in the activities of an "extremist group."
According to the Jehovah's Witnesses, Yershov was charged in March 2021 based on video recordings made by a person who feigned interest in studying the Bible.
In an interview, Yershov said he had dealt with the trial through Bible study and prayer.
Russia labeled the Jehovah's Witnesses an extremist group and banned it in 2017, leading to a wave of court cases and prison sentences against its members.
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 not celebrating national and religious holidays or birthdays.
According to the group, dozens of Jehovah's Witnesses have been either convicted of extremism or are in pretrial detention.