Sam Brownback calls on Russia to release Jehovah’s Witnesses

April 17, 2020 GMT

The State Department’s point person on religious liberty is calling for the Jehovah’s Witnesses imprisoned in Russia to be released.

“We call on Russia to release #religiousprisoners and #politicalprisoners, including all Jehovah’s Witnesses persecuted on account of their faith,” wrote Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador for International Religious Freedom, in a tweet Thursday. “It is the right thing to do.”

A military court in Tajikistan sentenced 19-year-old Jovidon Bobojonov to two years in prison this month for his conscientious objection to military service. The conviction comes on the heels of an major increase in arrests of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, which has accelerated this year.

In March, FSB agents in Russia ransacked the home of another Jehovah’s Witness six days after his death from heart failure, according to the religion’s news site. Russian authorities have made arrests and conducted investigations of the faith’s followers under a supreme court decision criminalizing “extremism.”