MOSCOW, November 30. /TASS/. A court in the Omsk Region has sentenced four defendants to up to three years of incarceration, including in a maximum security prison, for recruiting citizens to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious group (outlawed in Russia), the website of the Omsk Regional Directorate of the Russian Investigative Committee said.
"In the Omsk Region, organizers of an extremist group were sentenced <...> a 36-year-old woman, her 48-year-old spouse and their two female acquaintances who were found guilty of committing a crime under Article 282.2, parts 1 and 2, of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Recruitment of an individual to join an extremist organization). <...> Today the court sentenced the male defendant to 3 years of incarceration at a maximum security prison, he was taken into custody in a courtroom. The female defendants received suspended prison sentences," the statement said.
The investigation and the court established that in September 2017, the married couple, residents of St. Petersburg, arrived in Omsk where they organized the activity of a local Jehovah’s Witnesses religious group which was declared extremist in 2017 among others in the structure of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization in Russia.
Also, in May 2018, the defendants expanded their recruitment activity to include some other districts of the Omsk Region. "They also received and distributed extremist literature and collected monetary donations from citizens. For example, as the investigation established, the account of one of the defendants, via an instant payment system, received over 540,000 rubles (over $7,000 - TASS) with the payment purpose indicated as ‘the minister’s stipend’." The donations were subsequently used to finance the illegal activity of the outlawed Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization.
The defendants used clandestine methods: they were using aliases, scheduled secret meetings at "safe" apartments using text messages and chats. The detained recruiters followed a special manual developed by the illegal organization which contained advice on how to behave when detained and questioned by law enforcement.
Jehovah’s Witnesses is an international religious organization that supports offbeat views on the essence of the Christian faith and provides special interpretations of many commonly accepted notions. In August 2017, the Russian Justice Ministry included Jehovah’s Witnesses and its 395 local religious branches in the list of organizations outlawed in the country. The Russian Supreme Court satisfied the claim of the Justice Ministry to shut down the organization on April 20, 2017.
On April 20, 2017, the Russian Supreme Court declared the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization and all regional religious organizations in its structure an extremist organization. The extremist organization’s activities are outlawed in Russia.