A Russian court in Siberia has handed a three-year prison term to a Jehovah’s Witness, in the latest persecution of members of the banned Christian group.
The Severskiy City Court in the Tomsk region on January 19 sentenced Alekei Yershov after convicting him of participating in the activities of an “extremist organization.”
Prosecutors sought a five-year prison term for the 69-year-old married father of two adult children.
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 has 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.