Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Extremists?

By Ewelina U. Ochab | Forbes

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses extremists? Russian courts certainly think so. On April 1, 2019, Sergey Skrynnikov, a practicing Jehovah’s Witness in Russia, became the second member of the religious group to be convicted under Article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code. Skrynnikov had allegedly done nothing more than engaging in peaceful worship. The first Jehovah’s Witness was Dennis Christensen from Denmark. He was sentenced to six years in prison for the same “offence.” Christensen awaits his appeal hearing on May 7, 2019. The cases of Sergey Skrynnikov and Dennis Christensen, while causing an outcry in the western world, are nothing unusual in Russia.

Indeed, in early May 2019, there were 186 Jehovah’s Witnesses facing criminal charges for practicing their faith in Russia. This includes men and women in pretrial detention or under house arrest. All of the charges relate to Article 280 and 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code. For example, Article 282.2 criminalizes the act of organising the activity of an extremist community with Subsection (1) concerning “organizing the activity of a non-governmental or religious association or other organization that due to its extremist activity was liquidated or had its activity banned by a court decision that has entered legal force, with the exception of organizations declared terrorist under Russian Federation legislation”, and Subsection (2) “Participating in the activity of a non-governmental or religious association or other organization that due to its extremist activity was liquidated or had its activity banned by a court decision that has entered legal force, with the exception of organizations declared terrorist under Russian Federation legislation.” Furthermore, Article 282.2, Subsection (1.1.) criminalizes the act of “persuading, recruiting, or otherwise inducing a person to participate in the activity of an extremist organization.”

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