Fri, 14 May 2021

Five Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia's Komi Republic have been accused of organizing and taking part in the activities of an extremist group amid a continued crackdown on the religious group, which has been banned in the country since 2017.

Russia's Investigative Committee said on March 4 that a court in the city of Syktyvkar ordered one suspect in the case to be placed in pretrial detention. Two Jehovah's Witnesses were placed under house arrest and another two were ordered not to leave the city while an investigation in the case takes place.

Jehovah's Witnesses said a day earlier that police searched at least 14 homes of members of their congregation in Syktyvkar.

The announcement came days after a court in Russia's Republic of Khakassia sentenced two Jehovah's Witnesses -- 69-year-old Valentina Baranovskaya and her son Roman Baranovsky -- to two and six years in prison respectively.

SEE ALSO: Russian Court Jails Mother And Son Jehovah's Witnesses

The United States has condemned Russia's continued crackdown on Jehovah's Witnesses and other peaceful religious minorities.

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.

Since the faith was outlawed in Russia, many Jehovah's Witnesses have been imprisoned in Russia and the Russia-annexed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea on the Black Sea.

According to the group, dozens of Jehovah's Witnesses have either been convicted of extremism or are in pretrial detention.

In September 2019, Washington banned two high-ranking regional officers from Russia's Investigative Committee from entering the United States over the alleged torture of seven detainees who were Jehovah's Witnesses.

The Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized dozens of Jehovah's Witnesses who've been charged with or convicted of extremism as political prisoners.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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