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Russia, A Jehovah’s Witness to serve two years of forced labor

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On June 30, 2023, the judge of the Leninskiy District Court of Novosibirsk, Olga Kovalenko, found 45-year-old Dmitriy Dolzhikov guilty of extremism, sentenced him to three years in prison and a year of restriction of freedom, but his imprisonment was replaced with forced labor. Taking into account the period of detention of Dmitriy under arrest,  he will in fact have to serve about two years of forced labor.

Dmitriy Dolzhikov and his wife Marina on the day of the verdict
Dmitriy Dolzhikov and his wife Marina on the day of the verdict. Photo credit: JW

Dmitry Dolzhikov did not plead guilty: “

I carefully read the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation dated April 20, 2017 [on the liquidation of legal entities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia], but I have not seen anywhere that the court imposed a ban on practicing the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses and believers would be banned worship God, perform religious services, pray and sing religious songs. There has never been such a ban.”

The criminal case against Dmitriy Dolzhikov was initiated in May 2020. According to law enforcement officers, the believer

intentionally, out of extremist motives, took part in the activities of a religious association … in the form of participation in religious meetings and meetings of an extremist organization, holding conversations with residents of Chelyabinsk, showing and watching educational videos.”

This is how the security forces regarded the peaceful services, at which believers read and discussed the Bible. Two years after the initiation of the case, a search was carried out in Dolzhikov’s house, the FSB officers brought Dmitriy from Chelyabinsk to Novosibirsk, where he was imprisoned in a pre-trial detention center, where he spent 2.5 months. The security forces persuaded the man to cooperate, threatening to “ruin his life.” The believer spent more than 6 months under house arrest.

In November 2022, the case went to trial. The defense has repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that the documents from the case materials are dated mainly from 2007-2016, which does not apply to the imputed Dolzhikov period. The whole accusation was based on the testimony of a secret witness and two Orthodox activists who openly expressed hostility towards the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ confession and, according to Dmitriy, told lies, misleading the court.

JW protest JW Russia, A Jehovah’s Witness to serve two years of forced labor
Friends of the Dolzhikovs on the day of the verdict

In Novosibirsk, eight Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted for their faith,, two of them, pensioners Yuriy Savelyev and Aleksandr Seredkin , were sentenced to 6 years in prison.

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