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A court in the Russian city of Penza has sentenced a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religious group that Moscow has outlawed and labeled as “extremist,” to six years in prison.

The Lenin District Court sentenced Vladimir Alushkin in December 13 after finding him guilty of conducting extremist activities, the Jehovah’s Witnesses group said.

Five other Jehovah’s Witnesses, including Alushkin’s wife, Tatyana Alushkina, were also convicted on the same charge and handed suspended two-year sentences each.

Russia banned the religious group in April 2017 and deemed it an “extremist organization,” a designation the U.S. State Department says is “wrong.”

Since the faith was outlawed, several followers of the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been imprisoned in Russia, including Danish national Dennis Christensen, who was sentenced to six years in prison in February in the western city of Oryol in a case condemned both in Russia and abroad.

In September, the United States banned two high-ranking regional officers in Russia’s Investigative Committee from entering the country for allegedly torturing seven Jehovah’s Witness believers.

According to the religious group, as of December 9, there were 297 Jehovah’s Witnesses “dealing with criminal charges for their faith”; 43 were in detention and 22 were under house arrest.

The Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized 29 Jehovah’s Witnesses charged with or convicted of extremism as political prisoners.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have been viewed with suspicion in Russia for decades for its members’ views about military service, voting, and government authority in general.

With reporting by TASS
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