Kamchatka Regional Court during the second consideration of the case justified followers of the religious teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were accused of extremism. This is the second acquittal in the history of the organization. The charge was dropped from the spouses Konstantin and Snezhana Bazhenov, as well as from the pensioner Vera Zolotova. They were found not guilty under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (“Participation in the activities of an extremist organization”).
“Appeal hearings are now taking place all over Russia regarding the illegal sentences handed down to Jehovah’s Witnesses. We hope that the Kamchatka example will be effective for other judges, and they will take the liberty of correcting the mistakes made by their colleagues,” said Yaroslav Sivulsky, a representative of the European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In 2020 Elizovsky District Court sentenced Bazhenov and Zolotov to 2 years of probation, followed by restriction of freedom for 6 months. The court considered that the 75-year-old Zolotova and the 44-year-old Bazhenovs participated in the activities of an extremist organization – they read the Bible along with other participants.
The first appeal left the verdict unchanged, but the case was sent for retrial after an appeal to the cassation instance.
For the first time, a similar sentence to Jehovah’s Witnesses was canceled in November 2021 against Dmitry Barmakin, also accused of extremism.
The verdict of the court stated that Barmakin “is subject to acquittal due to the absence of corpus delicti in the act of the defendant,” since the believers were “realized the right to freedom of religion enshrined in the Constitution of Russia.” The document also stated that “attending communal services, providing premises for them, reading and discussing religious literature, spreading religious beliefs, observing religious rites and ceremonies, singing spiritual songs, offering prayers are forms of lawful behavior that are part of the freedom of conscience. and freedom of religion.”
The organization Jehovah’s Witnesses was banned on the territory of Russia in April 2017, after which criminal cases began to be initiated against its followers. By data Memorial Human Rights Center, at least 75 Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently in custody. Of these, 35 believers were sentenced to real terms of imprisonment. During the investigation, the detainees were subjected to torture.
At the same time, the Russian authorities declarethat there is no religious persecution in the country.