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The Watchtower brags it will outlast the Russian Federation

Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Following nearly five years of litigation and three trials, a 49-year-old man has been sentenced by a judge in far eastern Russia to eight year's imprisonment for practicing his Jehovah's Witnesses faith.

Dmitriy Barmakin of Vladivostok was sentenced Tuesday in a Primorye Territory courtroom, according to his church and the Moscow-based think tank SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, making it the second time in his three trials that he has been sentenced to a penal colony, after his original sentence was overturned last April.

"Yet again, Dmitriy has been struck by the pendulum of Russia's Potemkin legal system," Jarrod Lopes, a spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses, said in a statement emailed to UPI.

"Jehovah's Witnesses are neither surprised nor intimidated by Russia's systematic persecution. It's well documented in the history of Russia, as well as other lands, that the Witnesses' faith has always outlasted the persecuting regime. We expect history to repeat itself."

Russia has been imprisoning Jehovah's Witnesses on charges related to the practicing of their faith since an April 2017 decision by its Supreme Court criminalized all activity by the Christian denomination as extremist.

Russian law enforcement first arrested Barmakin on July 28, 2018, on suspicion of organizing the activities of an extremist organization over conducting Jehovah's Witnesses worship services. He spent 447 days in pre-trial detention before being released in October 2019 while his case was continuing to be investigated.

Then in November 2021, Barmakin was acquitted of all charges by the Primorye Territory Court, making it the first time a Russian court had handed down a not-guilty verdict in the Kremlin's crackdown on the Jehovah's Witnesses religion.

In April of the following year, his acquittal was overturned and a new trial was ordered, following which he received his first sentence of eight years' imprisonment a year later.

Barmakin then appealed the decision and a court overturned his conviction, but the case was returned to the prosecutor, who tried Barmakin a third time with the verdict in that trial being handed down Tuesday.

"Dmitriy is a hardworking, loving husband and son-in-law who has done all he could to help his family," Lopes said.

"It's tragically absurd that yet again he is separated from them for nothing more than a mythological narrative perpetrated by the prosecution."

Since the religion was banned in 2017, more than 790 people have been charged for practicing their faith, including 415 who have spent time behind bars, according to a tally from the church.

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