Russia fines Jehovah's Witness for 'extremism'

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MOSCOW - A Russian court on Monday found a Jehovah's Witness guilty of participating in an extremist organisation and ordered him to pay a $5,000 (R70, 000) fine, authorities and the religious movement said.

Sergei Skrynnikov was fined 350,000 rubles ($5,360), a spokeswoman for the district court in the southern city of Oryol told AFP.

The prosecution had demanded three years in jail for 56-year-old Skrynnikov, who was the second Jehovah's Witness to be convicted in Russia of having links to an extremist organisation.

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Last month, the same court imprisoned a Danish Jehovah's Witness, Dennis Christensen, for six years for organising the activities of an extremist organisation.

The Jehovah's Witnesses, a US-based Christian evangelical movement, decried the verdict.

"Skrynnikov is yet another victim of Russia's campaign to crush the peaceful religious activity of Jehovah's Witnesses," spokesman Paul Gillies said in a statement.

"This conviction, along with other recent events, is further evidence of the resurgence of Soviet-style repression in Russia," he added.

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Russia brands the Christian movement a totalitarian sect and in 2017 designated it as an extremist organisation, ordering its dissolution.

In recent weeks the religious movement has reported a growing wave of raids on the homes of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.

A total of 170 believers are facing charges in the country, the movement said, adding that some of its members had been tortured.

Christensen was given a lengthy prison term even though President Vladimir Putin said in December that Jehovah's Witnesses should not be seen as terrorists.