Jehovah’s Witness in Russia sentenced for her faith

  |  Source: Religion News Service

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WASHINGTON (RNS)—A Jehovah’s Witness has been sentenced to two years in a Russian prison for practicing her faith, marking the first time the country has imprisoned a woman since a 2017 ruling that declared the faith group “extremist.”

Valentina Baranovskaya, 69, was sentenced to two years in a Russian prison for practicing her faith, along with her son, Roman Baranovskiy, 46, who received a six-year sentence. (Photo courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses)

Valentina Baranovskaya, 69, was sentenced Feb. 24 along with her son, Roman Baranovskiy, 46, who received a six-year sentence.

“Today, Judge Elena Shcherbakova ruthlessly imprisoned a harmless, elderly woman and her son on baseless charges,” said Jarrod Lopes, spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “The ruling was a mockery of the rule of law—both international human rights law as well as Russia’s constitution, which protects religious freedom.”



In October, a Jehovah’s Witness named Yuriy Zalipayev was acquitted and shortly afterward six other members of the faith were given suspended sentences by a different judge.

Russian authorities raided the Baranovskiy home in 2019, along with the homes of three other Jehovah’s Witnesses in Abakan, in south-central Russia. Law enforcement officers confiscated Bibles, personal records and electronic devices.

Proceedings in Baranovskaya’s case were postponed when she was diagnosed with a stroke in July, but they resumed in December.



Action condemned by human rights groups

Human rights watchdogs condemned the sentencings.

“Valentina Baranovskaya and her son, Roman Baranovskiy, have done nothing wrong, and they should be immediately freed,” said Rachel Denber, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia Division. “Russia’s authorities should stop the campaign of persecution against Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Commissioner Gary Bauer, noting Baranovskaya’s age and health, called her sentencing “a new low in Russia’s brutal campaign against religious freedom.”


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Lopes noted that international criticism of Russia’s actions is ongoing.

“Nevertheless, Russian authorities across the federation have persisted in imprisoning and at times beating peaceful Jehovah’s Witnesses practicing their Christian beliefs,” he said. “We hope that Jehovah’s Witnesses will one day be allowed to freely read the Bible and worship in Russia as they do in over 200 other lands.”


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