More than 4,000 prisoners of concentration camps wore purple triangles on their chests. Because of their faith, they refused to salute Hitler, pick up weapons and fight. On the 75th anniversary of the liberation, the peace-loving Jehovah’s Witnesses are again in prison, this time in Russia. How did the liberating country become an oppressor?
As of December 31, 2019, 313 Jehovah’s Witnesses became defendants in criminal cases in 52 regions of Russia. During the last year, 18 people received sentences of various types and duration - up to six years in prison. In total, 149 believers have been sent to jail, 84 of them during the year. For the past 12 months, 489 house searches were carried out.
September 23-25, 2019, in Strasbourg, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, comprising the Foreign Affairs Ministers of all its member states and supervising the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, “insistently urged the [Russian] authorities to rapidly take all necessary measures to ensure that members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses can enjoy the unhindered exercise of their individual right to freedom of religion.”
As of July 31, 2019, the total number of searches in the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses had reached 587. In two years since the ban took effect, 90 criminal cases were opened against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. At least 241 people are either suspects, accused or convicted. After the verdict against Dennis Christensen in February 2019, Russian law enforcement increased the pressure, evident by the fact that as of February 6, 2019, searches numbered only 296. In total at least 129 Witnesses have been sent to detention centers, and 39 of them, including six women, are still behind bars.