May 25, 2021 | Freedom of Religion and Belief | HRWF

On May 20, 2021 judge of Leninskiy District Court of Saratov Andrey Efimov found Rustam Seidkuliev guilty under part 2 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (participation in activity of extremist organization). The believer was taken into custody in the courtroom.

Seidkuliev was sentenced to 2.5 years of imprisonment in a general regime colony and 1 year of restricted freedom after his release. The court took into account the 7 months that Rustam spent under house arrest: 217 days corresponding to 108 and a half days of imprisonment. Thus, the believer has to spend over two years in prison.

The verdict did not come into force, and can be appealed. The believer insists on his complete innocence. The state prosecutor requested that he be sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in a general regime penal colony.

After getting acquainted with biblical doctrines, Seidkuliev decided to lead a peaceful life, not to take up arms and not to learn how to fight. For his refusal to join the army, he was convicted twice (in 1995 and 1996) and spent 1 year and 8 months in a minimum-security penal colony in Turkmenistan. Twenty-five years later, Rustam found himself in court again only because of his faith.

A criminal case against Rustam Seidkuliev was initiated on January 29, 2020. He learned about it on February 15, 2020, when police officers detained him along with his wife in a shopping center. It was announced to Rustam that he was wanted, and later he was placed in a special detention center for 5 days.

On February 20, 2020. On February 20, 2020, Seidkuliev was taken for a search, after which he was transported by car to Saratov. On the morning of February 22, 2020, the court ordered that he be placed under house arrest for two months. This preventive measure was later extended to 7 months and 8 days, and in September 2020 it was changed to a ban on certain actions. One month later, the investigator confined himself to a written pledge not to leave.

The case of Seidkuliev was investigated by the bodies of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation in the Saratov region for a year and two months. On 30 March 2021, the case went to court. The case was considered for more than a year.

As stated in the indictment, Seidkuliev, “acting from extremist motives, realizing that by his actions he undermines the foundations of the constitutional order and state security”, continued to participate in worship services and talk to others about God. This accusation was made against Rustam in court, despite the fact that Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees every citizen “the right to practice…any religion or not to practice any religion. Neither the Supreme Court nor any other court has ever restricted this right as applied to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The OSCE, the European Union, Russian human rights activists, and many others condemn the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.

Elderly, infirmed widow convicted

On 19 May 2021, the Nadezhdinskiy District Court of the Primorye Territory sentenced 73-year-old Lyudmila Shut to a four-year suspended prison sentence.

In her final statement to the court, Lyudmila said: “I have the right to be a religious person!

“I am not a criminal and I am not an extremist. I do not know such a terrible word at all. This is something alien to me and completely contradicts my religious views”

For additional details about her case, see link

For images, see link. Please credit: Courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Nationwide Persecution in Russia and Crimea

  • 223 criminal cases, involving 440 believers
  • 34 men and women have been convicted in 2021. At this rate, 2021 could see double the number of convictions from 2020 (39), which was more than double the total in 2019 (18)
  • 61 in prison (the most since 2017 Supreme Court ruling)
  • 34 under house arrest
  • 1,437 homes of Witnesses raided since the 2017 Supreme Court ruling that liquidated the Witnesses’ legal entities