RUSSIA: FORB Special bimonthly digest (16-31.10.2022)

27.10.2022 – The Court of Cassation dismissed Jehovah’s Witness Andrey Gubin’s complaint against the verdict of the Birobidzhan District Court

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On October 25, 2022, the Ninth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction in Vladivostok considered Andrey Gubin’s cassation appeal against the verdict and the appeal ruling , according to which he was sentenced to imprisonment for a term of 2 years and 6 months suspended for his religion.

The believer considers himself innocent and unjustly condemned. At one time, the local religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Birobidzhan was liquidated by the decision of the Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region. In the ruling on appeal in this case, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation indicated that “the participants in this local organization are not deprived of the possibility of independent worship.” Gubin believes that he used this right. He tried to draw the attention of the Court of Cassation to this and many other rehabilitating circumstances of the case, but the verdict was not overturned.

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26.10.2022 – Korelov insists: Jehovah’s Witnesses and other “cults” ready to overthrow the Putin regime

Bitter Winter – The great conspiracy of the Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses, Act II. We reported in Bitter Winter that the lawyer of the Russian anti-cult federation RATsIRS, Alexander Korelov, had claimed that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were preparing a coup to overthrow the Putin regime, on behalf of the CIA and the Ukrainian intelligence, and with the help of Scientologists and Pentecostals.

Our readers might have considered the article as a curiosity, although Korelov is a famous lawyer in Russia, and one who has even spoken at the Belgian Parliament invited by MP André Frédéric, the current president of the European anti-cult federation FECRIS sharing the podium with Anne Josso, the general secretary of the French anti-cult mission MIVILUDES. Somebody might have thought that Korelov’s conspiracy theories would be regarded as extreme even by the Russian Orthodox Church, which published them in one of its local websites, and would be quickly forgotten.

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25.10.2022 – Jehovah’s Witnesses from Tynda sentenced to real terms

Sova Center – Four Jehovah’s Witnesses received sentences ranging from six to six and a half years.

On October 25, 2022, the Tyndinsky District Court of the Amur Region passed a sentence on four Jehovah’s Witnesses. Vladimir Bukin, Valery Slashchev and Sergey Yuferov were found guilty on CC. 1 and 1.1 Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (organization of the activities of an extremist organization, involvement in it) and were sentenced to six and a half years in prison in a general regime colony each. Mikhail Burkov, who was accused only under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code, received six years and two months in prison. The defendants were taken into custody in the courtroom.

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24.10.2022 – Russian anti-cult leader: “International religious liberty is a Nazi idea”

Bitter Winter – Almost every day, a new argument is advanced by the Russian anti-cult organizations to support the aggression against Ukraine and slander the Ukrainian government, the United States, and the West in general. Readers of Bitter Winter should by now be familiar with Archpriest Alexander Novopashin, the deputy of famous Russian anti-cultist Alexander Dvorkin as leader of the national anti-cult umbrella organization Russian Association of Centers for Religious and Cultic Studies (РАЦИРС/RATsIRS), which is connected with the European anti-cult federation FECRIS (despite unconfirmed theories that RATsIRS has been expelled from FECRIS, Novopashin’ s website still mentions it is FECRIS’ Russian affiliate).

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24.10.2022 – The court in Krasnoyarsk liquidated the Church of the last testament

Sova Center – On October 24, 2022, the Krasnoyarsk Regional Court granted the claim of the regional prosecutor’s office to liquidate the local religious organization “Church of the Last Testament”.

The prosecutor’s office, followed by the court, considered that the organization “threatens the interests of society and the state, infringes on the personality, rights and freedoms of citizens, entails damage to the morality and health of citizens” .

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21.10.2022 – One of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 67, detained in Maykop

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On 20 October 2022 searches were again carried out in Maykop at least three addresses of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Nikolay Voishchev, 67, was arrested and a criminal case was opened against him.

Early in the morning employees of the Investigative Committee and FSB, witnesses and IT-specialist came to the believers with a search. They seized cell phones, electronic devices, and hard drives with personal photos and documents. The law enforcers behaved correctly.

Three believers were taken to the investigative committee of Maikop for questioning, after which two were released and Nikolai Voishchev was placed in temporary detention isolation ward. Soon, the court will choose a measure of restraint for him.

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21.10.2022 – The Court of Cassation upheld the conviction of Sergey Sergeyev and Yuriy Belosludtsev – Six years of suspended sentence for believing in God

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On 18 October 2022 the Ninth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction in Vladivostok considered the appeal of Sergey Sergeyev and Yuriy Belosludtsev against their sentence. The judicial board disregarded their right to freedom of religion and upheld the decision of the first instance.

Addressing the court of cassation, Yuriy Belosludtsev said: “I am an ordinary believer, and my actions, which were regarded as criminal by the court of first instance, are reading the Bible, singing songs, praying, and also talking on biblical topics. But these cases are ordinary cases for any believer, and they are protected by Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation”.

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21.10.2022 – The appeal in Krasnodar affirmed the verdict for the faith of Aleksandr Nikolaev, a many-child father

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On October 20, 2022, the Krasnodar Territory Court dismissed an appeal of 49-year-old Aleksandr Nikolaev from the village of Kholmskaya. The father of five children will have to spend another 11 months in a penal colony for participating in an online worship service where he read aloud a passage from the Bible.

The sentence came into effect. The believer still insists on his innocence and has the right to file a complaint with the court of cassation. He has already spent almost 13 months in the detention center, which is added to his sentence on the basis of the principle one day for one and a half. The presumed date of release from the colony – September 19, 2023, but after release, Aleksandr Nikolaev must regularly report to the inspection of the Federal Penitentiary Service for six months at his place of residence. This part of the sentence was added by the appellate court.

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21.10.2022 – In Primorye, Galina Kobeleva, 66, received a six-year suspended sentence for practicing the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses

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On October 20, 2022, the judge of the Lesozavodskiy District Court of the Primorye Territory Sergey Galayuda found Galina Kobeleva guilty of organizing the activities of an extremist organization only because of her religion and sentenced her to 6 years suspended sentemce—this is exactly the punishment requested by the prosecutor.

In court, the believer said, “I still insist that I did not commit any crime. My religious activity was not a continuation of the activities of a liquidated legal entity, but a way of confessing my faith.” The verdict has not entered into force and can be appealed.

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18.10.2022 –  First criminal conviction for opposing war in Ukraine on religious grounds

Forum 18 – A Russian Orthodox priest from the Urals has become the first person to receive a criminal conviction for opposing Russia’s war in Ukraine on religious grounds. A court in Sverdlovsk Region fined Fr Nikandr Pinchuk about two months’ average local wage on 17 October for allegedly “discrediting” the Russian Armed Forces for a second time. He was punished for a social media post of under 140 words in length, which condemned the “horde of the Antichrist” attacking Ukraine.

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18.10.2022 – A new criminal case has been initiated in Kamchatka on the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Sova – Center October 17, 2022 in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, as part of a new criminal case initiated under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (organization of the activities of an extremist organization), searches were carried out at the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The case was opened on 25 September. Investigators searched four apartments of local residents, as well as one car. After searches and interrogations, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were released on a promise to appear.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are accused of involvement in the activities of an extremist organization due to the fact that in April 2017 the Supreme Court of Russia  ruled  that the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and 395 local religious organizations were extremist. We believe that this decision, which entailed the mass persecution of believers under Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code, had no legal grounds, and we regard it as a manifestation of religious discrimination. In June 2022, the ECtHR  ruled on the complaint of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in which he acknowledged that the ban on their materials and organizations and the persecution of believers are contrary to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and demanded that criminal cases be dropped under Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code against Jehovah’s Witnesses and release imprisoned believers.

17.10.2022 – Judicial statistics of “illegal” missionary work in the first half of 2022

Sova Center – On October 14, 2022, the Judicial Department of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation published statistical data on the application of Art. 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation in the first half of 2022. The number of cases is about the same, the amount of fines has increased.

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