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Russia Says It Is Investigating Torture Claims By Jehovah's Witnesses

Yevgeny Kayryak, one of the Jehovah's Witnesses who said he was tortured by Russian police.

An official of Russia's main criminal investigative body says the organization is looking into allegations that its officers tortured members of the banned Jehovah's Witnesses religious group.

In a February 19 statement, the religious group said seven of its adherents were “subjected to torture – electric shocks, suffocation, and cruel beatings” by Investigative Committee officers in the city of Surgut in northwestern Siberia.

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The Investigative Committee initially denied the torture claim. But Interfax on February 22 cited regional committee official Oleg Menshikh as saying it had decided to investigate the claim because of “agitation that has arisen after publication of this information in the media."

Russia banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017, declaring that the group is an “extremist organization.”

The seven Jehovah’s Witnesses who claim they’ve been tortured were arrested on February 15 in Russia’s Khanty-Mansi region.

Their arrests were part of a crackdown that has continued since a Russian court on February 6 found a Danish adherent, Dennis Christensen, guilty of “organizing the activity of an extremist organization.”

Christensen was sentenced to six years in prison by the Zheleznodorozhny district court in Russia’s western city of Oryol.

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, and Interfax