I've just confirmed that 62-year-old Gennady Shpakovskiy was released from prison in Russia today.
As you recall, on June 9, 2020, the Pskov City Court convicted Gennady and sentenced him to 6.
5 years in prison.
This was the longest, harshest sentence handed down to one of Jehovah's Witnesses since the 2017 Russian Supreme Court ruling that criminalized their activity.
This afternoon, the Pskov Regional Court upheld the June conviction but changed his sentence to probation for the same term length.
Jarrod Lopes, spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses, states: "We are happy to hear Gennady was released and reunited with his wife, Tatiana, and their daughter, Maria.
But this is not the end of the story for Gennady.
He remains stigmatized as a convicted "extremist.
" Prominent human rights actors across the globe continue to urge Russia to stop criminalizing the peaceful Christian worship of Jehovah's Witnesses.
We hope Russia will live up to its international human rights obligations and protect the freedom of religion is championed in its constitution.
" Upon request, I can send you photos of Gennady being welcomed by his wife and daughter upon leaving detention center No.
1 for Pskov Region.
Why was he convicted? · In early 2018, FSB agents wiretapped the Shpakovskiy family's apartment and monitored their activity for several months · June 3, 2018, at 12:45 p.
, FSB agents and armed National Guard officers forced open the front door of the Shpakovskiy's apartment, where a few were present for a peaceful Christian meeting.
The FSB and National Guard searched the apartment for six hours · The FSB agents confiscated tablets and cell phones and took the Witnesses away for questioning.
The interrogators insulted the Witnesses and threatened them with dismissal from work as well as criminal prosecution.
Gennady's interrogation lasted until 10 p.
· On March 19, 2019, Gennady was charged with organizing the activities of an "extremist" organization · August 2019, Gennady was also charged with "financing extremist activities" Nationwide Persecution (Russia and Crimea) 372 under criminal investigation 42 in prison (10 convicted; 32 pretrial detention) 27 under house arrest 1072 homes raided since 2017 Supreme Court ruling (271 raided in 2020--even during the COVID-19 pandemic).