Religious persecution and issues – Bimonthly digest Feb 16-28
03.03.2023 – Court’ in Russian-occupied Crimea passes long sentences against three Ukrainian Jehovah’s Witnesses
Khpg – The Russian occupation ‘Yalta municipal court’ has convicted four Jehovah’s Witnesses of preposterous charges based solely on the Ukrainians’ faith, with three men sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Instead of complying with international law which prohibits an occupying state from applying its legislation on occupied territory, Russia’s religious persecution in occupied Crimea is worse even than that on Russian territory. If in Russia, ‘judges’ do fairly often pass suspended sentences, virtually all ‘trials’ in occupied Crimea have ended in terms of imprisonment of between 6 and 7 years.
27.02.2023 – Jehovah’s Witnesses from Yalta sentenced
Sova center – On February 27, 2023, the Yalta City Court sentenced four local Jehovah’s Witnesses. Taras Kuzio was sentenced to six and a half years in prison in a penal colony with restriction of freedom for a year. Sergei Lyulin and Petr Zhiltsov each received six years and one month in prison and a year of restriction of freedom. The court sentenced Darya Kuzio to three years of suspended liberty with the same probationary period.
24.02.2023 – In Saransk, a new wave of searches at Jehovah’s Witnesses. Three believers arrested
Link to full text in Russian : https://jw-russia.org/news/2023/02/241011.html
Early in the morning of February 14, 2023, law enforcement officers in Saransk conducted at least ten searches in the homes of believers who are suspected of practicing the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is known that Mikhail Shevchuk, Artem Velichko and Ivan Neverov were sent to Detention Center No. 1 in the Republic of Mordovia.
On January 11, 2023, the investigator of the Ministry of Internal Affairs V. A. Makeeva opened a criminal case against three local residents. In the friendly meetings of believers, she saw a crime—”organizing the activities of an extremist organization” (part 1 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). Investigator K. I. Frantsuzov is handling the case. On February 3, he received court permission to conduct searches in the region.
22.02.2023 – Aleksandr Shcherbina released. For his faith, he spent 2 years in a colony
Link to full text in Russian : https://jw-russia.org/news/2023/02/220913.html
On February 22, 2023, Aleksandr Shcherbina was released after serving his full term of imprisonment for his belief in Jehovah God. Earlier, the appeal commuted his sentence, reducing the period of stay in the colony from three years to two.
Shcherbina faced criminal prosecution in 2020, when homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses were searched in the villages of the Krasnodar Territory. The accusation of extremism was followed by 2 months of litigation. As a result, the believer received a real term of imprisonment in a general regime colony only because of his religion.
22.02.2023 – Andrey Andreyev, the last of the Kursk Jehovah’s Witnesses convicted for their faith, released from the Colony
Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2023/02/220915.html
On February 22, 2023, to the applause of relatives and friends, Andrey Andreyev was released from a penal colony in Lipetsk. He served the complete term given by the court – 4.5 years – for his faith in Jehovah God.
About a hundred people waited for more than two hours at a temperature of -17 degrees to greet Andrey.
In fact, Andrey Andreyev spent 3 years, 4 months and 9 days behind bars. For most of this period, he was in a pre-trial detention center.
21.02.2023 – Three Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced in Kazan. Believers received various terms of imprisonment
Link to full text in Russian : https://jw-russia.org/news/2023/02/210917.html
On February 20, 2023, the Vakhitovsky District Court of Kazan found Tatyana Obizhestvit and the Bochkarevs guilty of organizing the activities of an extremist community. None of those convicted pleaded guilty.
Tatyana Obizhestvit and Leysan Bochkareva received suspended sentences of 2 and 2 and a half years, respectively. Andrey Bochkarev was sentenced to 3 years and 1 month of real imprisonment, but he was released in the courtroom, since he has actually served his term in a pre-trial detention center.
21.02.2023 – State Prosecutor requests eight years in Prison for a Jehovah’s Witness from the Krasnoyarsk Territory
Sova Center – Yuri Yakovlev is accused of organizing the activities of a banned organization.
On February 17, 2023, during a debate in the Sosnovoborsk City Court of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, the state prosecutor asked that Jehovah’s Witness Yury Yakovlev be sentenced to eight years in a penal colony.
The believer is accused under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (organization of the activities of an extremist organization). A criminal case was opened against him on March 28, 2022 — on that day, searches were conducted in five homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Sosnovoborsk, and Yakovlev was detained. Two days later, the court sent him to jail. According to investigators, he organized online meetings of the community, was engaged in “pastoral work” and supervised “preaching activities.” In June 2022, the case of a Jehovah’s Witness came to court for consideration on the merits.
20.02.2023 – Jehovah’s Witnesses detained in Leningrad Region
Sova Center – On February 20, 2023, the investigative department of the Russian Investigative Committee for the Leningrad Region announced the detention of six Jehovah’s Witnesses as part of an investigation into a case initiated under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (organization of the activities of an extremist organization).
According to investigators, in April 2017, in the Kingisepp District, a local resident born in 1989, whose name is not named, organized “propaganda meetings with the participation of adherents via video link and at their places of residence, at which forbidden literature and methods of its distribution were studied and discussed” , and also “performed managerial functions aimed at supporting the activities of a religious organization, including those related to the collection of donations.” Five other detainees were members of the organization, the UK believes.
20.02.2023 – Court passes judgment on Jehovah’s Witnesses from Kazan
Sova Center – Andrei Bochkarev received a real term, but was immediately released. Leysan Bochkareva and Tatyana Obijestvit were sentenced to suspended sentences.
On February 20, 2023, the Vakhitovsky District Court of Kazan passed a sentence on Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were accused of organizing the activities of an extremist organization (Part 1, Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code). Andrei Bochkarev was sentenced by the court to three years and a month in prison to be served in a strict regime colony, but he was immediately released: Bochkarev was credited with the time he spent in custody during the investigation. His wife Leysan Bochkareva received a two and a half year suspended sentence with a probationary period of the same duration, and Tatyana Obijestvit received two years suspended sentence with a two-year probationary period.
16.02.2023 – Court in Kazan gave Konstantin Sannikov, a father of four, 6.5 years in a Penal Colony for reading the Bible
Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2023/02/161447.html
On February 15, 2023, the Sovetskiy District Court of Kazan sentenced Konstantin Sannikov to 6.5 years in a penal colony. For conducting peaceful religious services of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the court found him guilty of extremism.
Several secret witnesses testified in the Sannikov case. According to the defense, their statements did not correspond to reality and indicated personal hostility toward Jehovah’s Witnesses. Also Judge Marat Khaertdinov noticed this: at one of the hearings he stated that the witness was clearly trying to slander the defendant.
16.02.2023 – New raids in the Khabarovsk Territory. Criminal case initiated against a 76-year-old believer
Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2023/02/160909.html
On February 13, 2023, in the village of Dormidontovka, Khabarovsk Territory, police conducted at least two searches and interrogations of persons suspected of practicing the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A day earlier, a criminal case was opened against 76-year-old Liliya Dolinina.
At 6:00 am, operatives broke into the homes of elderly believers to conduct searches that lasted 4 hours. Electronic devices, computer storage media and personal records were confiscated from Liliya Dolinina and another man. After the searches, the believers were taken to the investigative committee for interrogation, where they were tried to find out who else in the village professes the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses and organizes worship meetings.
16.02.2023 – The court in Krasnoyarsk liquidated the Church of the last testament
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” .
The decision of the court has not yet entered into force, the defense intends to appeal it. Lawyer Ivan Khoroshev, who represents the interests of the Church, believes that the conclusion of the expert examination, on which the court relied, was prepared “in gross violation of the law.” In particular, the examination was carried out outside a state institution and without the appointment of experts by the court: “The procedure for initiating a specialist as an expert has been violated. If the procedure is violated, then the experts are not legally responsible for their conclusions. The entire judicial practice of administrative proceedings suggests that such examinations cannot be recognized as admissible .