DECEMBER 17, 2019
On Friday morning, December 13, 2019, the Leninsky District Court of Penza convicted Vladimir Alushkin and sentenced him to six years in prison. He was immediately handcuffed and taken into custody. Five others, including Vladimir’s wife, Tatyana, were party to the same case. The court placed all five (three brothers and two sisters) on probation, issuing each a two-year suspended prison sentence. All six brothers and sisters from Penza will appeal their convictions.
As previously reported, Vladimir Alushkin was arrested on July 15, 2018, after about a dozen masked police officers with assault rifles forced their way into his home. The officers searched the apartment for almost four hours, seizing cell phones, electronic devices, Bibles, and other Bible-based literature. Officers searched five other homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses that day and took about 40 brothers and sisters to police stations for interrogation.
Local authorities kept Brother Alushkin in a temporary holding facility for two days before the Pervomayskiy District Court of Penza ordered his transfer to a pretrial detention center for two months. The district court subsequently extended Vladimir Alushkin’s pretrial detention term twice. After spending nearly six months in the detention center, he was transferred to house arrest, where he remained until his conviction on December 13.
Along with Brother Alushkin, three of the five other Witnesses who faced criminal charges as part of the same case were Brothers Vladimir Kulyasov, Andrey Magliv, and Denis Timoshin. They were placed under house arrest for the duration of the investigation and trial. The two others, Sisters Tatyana Alushkina and Galiya Olkhova, had been under a recognizance agreement since February 2019 that restricted their travel and communication with others.
In August 2019, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) issued a 12-page opinion that denounced Russia for arresting and detaining Brother Alushkin. According to the WGAD, Brother Alushkin “should not have been arrested and held in pretrial detention, and no trial of Mr. Alushkin should take place.” The WGAD insisted that “the appropriate remedy would be to release Mr. Alushkin immediately.” In defending the six brothers and sisters in Penza, the attorneys based their case on the internationally recognized WGAD opinion. However, when reading the December 13 verdict, the judge stated that the court deemed Russia’s 2017 Supreme Court ruling—which effectively banned the worship of Jehovah’s Witnesses—takes precedence over the WGAD’s opinion.
Russia has now convicted 18 brothers and sisters this year, with 9 of the brothers sentenced to various prison terms. Over 40 brothers and sisters are in pretrial detention and 19 are under house arrest. Throughout Russia, nearly 300 brothers and sisters in Russia are facing criminal charges for their faith.
Although we are saddened to hear about the persecution of our brothers and sisters, we are not surprised by such trials. They were foretold, along with the promise of Jehovah’s loving support. We pray for the ‘spirit of glory, yes, the spirit of God, to rest upon them.’—1 Peter 4:12-14.