Belarus Refuses To Extradite Russian Jehovah's Witness Wanted For 'Extremism'

Belarusian authorities have ruled against extraditing a Russian citizen who is a Jehovah's Witness back to Russia, where he is wanted for alleged extremism.

The Jehovah's Witnesses group in Russia said on April 8 that Nikolai Makhalichev was released the day before in the eastern Belarusian city of Vitsebsk immediately after the Prosecutor-General's Office announced its decision to deny the Russian extradition request.

Makhalichev, who is from Russia's northern Khanty-Mansi region, was arrested on February 21 in Vitsebsk on Russia's request.

Local and international human rights organizations had urged Minsk to release Makhalichev, saying the charges against him were launched because of his religious views.

According to the religious group, Makhalichev is one of 23 Jehovah's Witnesses being persecuted in the Khanty-Mansi region.

Russia has banned the Jehovah's Witnesses, branding the group as an "extremist organization" in April 2017.

Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized dozens of arrested or convicted Jehovah’s Witnesses as political prisoners and demanded their immediate release.


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