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Final sentences to prison terms for 20 Jehovah’s Witnesses since 1 January 2022

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Willy Fautre
Willy Fautrehttps://www.hrwf.eu
Willy Fautré, former chargé de mission at the Cabinet of the Belgian Ministry of Education and at the Belgian Parliament. He is the director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), an NGO based in Brussels that he founded in December 1988. His organization defends human rights in general with a special focus on ethnic and religious minorities, freedom of expression, women’s rights and LGBT people. HRWF is independent from any political movement and any religion. Fautré has carried out fact-finding missions on human rights in more than 25 countries, including in perilous regions such as in Iraq, in Sandinist Nicaragua or in Maoist held territories of Nepal. He is a lecturer in universities in the field of human rights. He has published many articles in university journals about relations between state and religions. He is a member of the Press Club in Brussels. He is a human rights advocate at the UN, the European Parliament and the OSCE.

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The persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses is going on unabated. In the last six months, 20 of them have been sentenced for practising their religion and are serving their prison term. Here is the list:

06 June 2022: Vladimir Ermolaev, 34 years (6 ½ years)

                      Alexander Putintsev, 48 years (6 ½ years)

                      Igor Mamalimov, 46 years (6 years in a colony)

31 May 2002: Rustam Seidkuliev, 45 years old (2 years and 4 months)

23 May 2022: Lyudmila Shchekoldina, 46 years ‘4 years and 1 month)

23 May 2022: Andrey Vlasov, 53 years old (7 years)

23 May 2022: Lyudmila Shchekoldina, 45 years old (4 years and 1 month in a penal colony)

26 April 2022: Andrey Ledyaikin, 34 years old (2 years and 2 months)

19 April 2022: Konstantin Samsonov, 45 years old (7 years 1/2 years)

18 March 2022: Valeriy Rogozin, 60 years old (6 years and 5 months in a penal colony)

                           Denis Peresunko, 54 years old (6 years and 6 months)

                           Sergey Melnik, 57 years old (6 years in a penal colony)

                           Igor Egozaryan, 57 years old (6 years in a penal colony)

07 February 2022: Yuriy Saveliyev, 68 years old (6 years + 1 year of restricted freedom)

02 February 2022: Anatoliy Gorbunov, 64 years old (6 years)

25 January 2022: Anna Safronova, 57 years old (6 years)

20 January 2022: Yevgeny Korotun, 52 years old (7 years + 2 years of restricted freedom)

20 January 2022: Andrei Kolesnichenko, 52 years old (4 years + 1 year of restricted freedom)

19 January 2022: Alexei Ershov, 68 years old (3 years)

17 January 2022: Maksim Beltikov, 42 years old (2 years)

Vladimir Ermolaev and Alexander Putintsev sentenced to 6 ½ years, and Igor Mamalimov to 6 years in a colony

On June 6, 2022, Marina Kuklina, a judge of the Central District Court of Chita, sentenced Vladimir Ermolaev and Alexander Putintsev to 6.5 years, and Igor Mamalimov to 6 years in a colony, they were taken into custody. Sergei Kirilyuk received 6 years probation.

For Mamalimov and Kirilyuk, the prosecutor requested 6 years of suspended sentence, for Vladimir Ermolaev and Aleksandr Putintsev—7 years of real imprisonment, although there are no victims and evidence of crimes against the state and the individual in the case. Believers resolutely deny the guilt of extremism, the verdict has not entered into force and can be appealed.

The criminal case was initiated on January 20, 2020. Six months earlier, the Chita believers noticed that they were being followed, and while relaxing by the river, they discovered tracking devices and hidden audio recordings. On February 10, 2020, FSB officers conducted 50 searches in Chita and other settlements in Transbaikalia. The security forces invaded the homes of the elderly, the disabled, large families and other believers. The search in the house of Sergey Kirilyuk took place in front of his wife, who has a group II disability, and a minor child. During the raid, Vadim Kutsenko was strangled and tortured with a stun gun. He, as well as Vladimir Ermolaev, was detained and placed in a temporary detention facility. 

In total, 8 believers were suspected of organizing extremist activities, but in January 2021, charges were dropped against Vadim Kutsenko, Aleksey Loskutov, Georgiy Senotrusov and Pavel Mamalimov due to the lack of corpus delicti. The Investigative Committee for the Trans-Baikal Territory investigated the case against Ermolaev, Kirilyuk, Putintsev and Igor Mamalimov for 1 year and 1 month. Then it was taken to court.

All four defendants were included in the list of extremists of Rosfinmonitoring, their bank accounts were blocked. This had a particularly negative impact on the family of Igor Mamalimov, the father of three young children, who is the only breadwinner despite poor health. His wife, Nataliya, does not work due to childcare. Addressing the court, the believer said : “In my heart there is no resentment against anyone who accuses me, and even in my thoughts I do not hold malice against them. Deep down, I don’t feel any hatred.” 

Vladimir Ermolaev spent 3 days in a temporary detention center and 50 days under house arrest, after which the investigator took a written undertaking not to leave him. Sergey Kirilyuk spent 5 days in a temporary detention center and was also released on bail. As a result, all four believers remained under house arrest for about 2.5 years.

This is the first guilty verdict under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation issued to Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Trans-Baikal Territory.

Rustam Seidkuliev sentenced to 2 years and 4 months

In May 2021, the court found 45-year old Rustam Seidkuliev guilty of participating in extremist activities. He was first sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison with restriction of liberty for a period of 1 year. Later, the court of appeal reduced this period by 2 months. 

On 31 May 2022, the First Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction in Saratov left the appellate ruling of the Saratov Regional Court unchanged.

He has started serving his sentence in a penal colony of general regime: Penal Colony No. 33 in Saratov Region.

Seidkuliev was born in 1977 in Ashgabat (former Turkmen SSR). As a child, he was engaged in freestyle wrestling, martial arts. He graduated from college and acquired the profession of a telephone master.

In 1993, he became a Jehovah’s Witness.

Rustam’s religious convictions do not allow taking up arms, so he refused to do military service. For refusing to join the army, he was twice convicted (in 1995 and 1996) and spent 1 year and 8 months in a general regime colony. 

In 2000, the family moved from Turkmenistan to Saratov, as Rustam’s stepfather was deported from the country because of his religion. 

A year after the move, Rustam met his future wife Yuliya, who at that time had already been a Jehovah’s Witness for 8 years.

Lyudmila Shchekoldina sentenced to 4 years and 1 month

On 23 May 2022, a court sentenced Lyudmila Shchekoldina to a term of 4 years 1 month with deprivation of the right to engage in activities related to the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses and participation in public associations.

She is currently held in a correctional colony of general regime: Detention Center No. 1 in Krasnodar Territory.

Shchekoldina was born in June 1976 in the village of Alexandrovka (Krasnodar Territory).

On 29 April 2020, at the height of the pandemic, FSB officers with representatives of the local Cossacks broke into the houses of civilians in two villages of the Krasnodar Territory, conducted searches and interrogations. Lyudmila Shchekoldina from the village of Pavlovskaya was suspected by the security forces of being “an adherent of a banned organization.” A criminal case was initiated against her, and a written undertaking not to leave was taken from the believer.

After graduating from the Oryol State University, she received the specialty “primary school teacher with the right to teach Russian language and literature in the middle classes.” As a specialist in the social protection service, in her native village she worked with pensioners, disabled people, and orphans. In 2007 she moved to the village of Pavlovskaya. There she worked as a plasterer, a housekeeper, and then as a janitor at a sports school.

Source: http://jw-russia.org

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