The Jehovah's Witnesses' headquarters in New York City. In Russia, the religious group has been banned since 2017.
CHITA, Russia -- Several more Jehovah’s Witnesses have been handed prison terms on extremism charges in Siberia amid an ongoing crackdown on the religious group, which has been banned in Russia since 2017.
A court in the city of Chita sentenced Vladimir Yermolayev, Aleksandr Putintsev, and Igor Mamalimov to six and a half years in prison each on June 6 after finding the three guilty of organizing and taking part in the activities of an "extremist organization."
In separate cases, the central district court of Chita also handed a suspended six-year prison term to another Jehovah's Witness, Sergei Kirillyuk, while Yegor Baranov was handed a suspended five-year prison term on the charge of being a member of and recruiting new members to "an extremist group" in the far eastern region of Khabarovsk Krai.
Since the faith was outlawed, dozens of Jehovah's Witnesses have had cases launched against them, with many sentenced to prison in Russia.
The United States has condemned Russia's ongoing crackdown on Jehovah's Witnesses and other peaceful religious minorities.
For decades, 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, the rejection of military service, and a refusal to mark national and religious holidays or birthdays.