Russian authorities reportedly jailed a Jehovah’s Witness in Crimea after finding him guilty of extremism.
Sergei Filatov, 47, was found guilty Thursday of conducting religious meetings for a banned extremist organization, which Jehovah’s Witnesses are under Russian law, Reuters reported.
More than 200 law enforcement officials raided eight homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the area Filatov and his family lived in Dzhankoi on the night of Nov. 16, 2018, according to the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A criminal case was opened against him under Article 282.2(1) of the Russian Criminal Code, which as of 2017 bans the “organization of the activities of an extremist organization.” His trial began in September 2019, and Filatov is appealing the conviction, Jarrod Lopes of the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses said to the Daily Caller.
“The court sentenced Sergey to prison because the prosecution claimed that he ‘undermines the foundations of constitutional order and the security of the state.’ Yet all he is accused of is reading the Bible together with his friends in his own home,” Lopes said in a statement.
Filatov is the first Jehovah’s Witness since Russia’s 2017 Supreme Court decision to be convicted under Russia’s ruling in Crimea, Reuters reported. (RELATED: US Commission On International Religious Freedom Condemns Russia’s Torture Of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
The case of Danish citizen Dennis Christensen, a Jehovah’s Witness in Russia, brought the world’s attention to what religious freedom advocates are decrying as Russia’s crackdown on Jehovah’s Witnesses who are peacefully practicing their religion, but are considered threats to Russia’s “constitutional order.” Christensen was sentenced to 6 years in prison in 2019 for continuing the activities of an extremist group, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which has continuously monitored his case.
In Russia, 10 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been convicted and sent to prison after their faith was criminalized in 2017. As of March 5, 26 face pre-trial detention, 31 have been convicted, and 316 are still under investigation, according to Lopes.
Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain that Russia’s constitution guarantees their right to exercise their religion and deny any wrongdoing, Reuters reported.