A court in Siberia has extended the pretrial detention of three leaders of an isolated messianic sect who are charged with "creating a religious group, activities of which may impose violence on citizens."
Defense lawyers for Sergei Torop, the founder of the Church of the Last Testament who calls himself Vissarion, and his associates, Vadim Redkin and Vladimir Vedernikov, wrote on Telegram on January 13 that the Central District Court in the city of Novosibirsk had prolonged their clients' pretrial detention until April 15.
The lawyers added that they will appeal the court ruling.
The trio was arrested by security forces in September in a massive raid on the group's remote settlement in the Krasnoyarsk Krai region.
Torop, a 59-year-old former traffic-police officer, founded the Church of the Last Testament in 1991. It was officially registered as a legal religious organization in 1995. The group claims some 10,000 followers, mostly living in southern parts of the Krasnoyarsk region.
The group bars members from eating meat, as well as from using tobacco, alcohol, or money.
Torop also has followers abroad, particularly in Germany.
Seven volumes of the church's teachings – which combine elements of Russian Orthodoxy and Buddhism with strong elements of collectivism and environmentalism -- have been translated into German.