Jehovah's Witnesses to appeal their convictions in south Russia


Kavkazskii Uzel, 22 December 2020


Jehovah's Witnesses from Rostov-on-Don Semen Baibak, who was given a three and a half years suspended sentence, and Ruslan Alyev, who was given a two and a half years suspended sentence, do not agree with the verdicts and intend to appeal them, their associates report.


As Kavkazskii Uzel wrote, Semen Baibak was arrested in June 2019, spent one day in custody, and then was put under house arrest. Investigators charged him under the article about participation in the activity of an extremist organization (part 2 of article 282.2) and about financing such activity (part 1 of article 282.3) of the Criminal Code of Russia. The case was heard by the Lenin district court of Rostov-on-Don. The state prosecutor asked the court to sentence the believer to four years, suspended. Baibak did not acknowledge guilt. He thinks that he is being subjected to prosecution for exercising his constitutional right to religious confession. On 21 December, Baibak was given a three and a half years suspended incarceration.


Semen Baibak is one of 16 Jehovah's Witnesses in Rostov oblast against whom criminal cases were initiated on the basis of a legal decision regarding a lawsuit of the Ministry of Justice for the liquidation of all structural subdivisions of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. Rostov oblast is leading among the regions of the south of Russia in the number of criminal prosecutions of believers, according to a report prepared by Kavkazskii Uzel "Jehovah's Witnesses—extremists or victims of lawlessness?"


The Lenin district court of Rostov-on-Don found the 23-year-old Semen Baibak guilty in an incident of participation in the activity of an extremist organization (part 1 of article 282.3 of CC RF) and sentenced him to imprisonment for a term of three years. By partially adding up the sentences imposed, the court finally sentenced Baibak to three years and six months in prison, with restriction on his liberty for one year, according to an audio recording of the session in Kavkazskii Uzel's possession.


On the basis of article 73 of the CC RF (conditional conviction), the court decided to consider Baibak's punishment as a conditional term with four years and six months of probation. The measure of restriction in the form of house arrest was cancelled by the court, releasing Baibak from house arrest in the courtroom.


According to the sentence, Baibak is "required not to leave his place of permanent residence from 22.00 to 6.00 a.m. without the consent of the specialized government agency overseeing his serving his punishment, and he is not to go to restaurants, bars, and other entertainment facilities where alcoholic beverages are sold, located inside the city limits within which the convict will reside after serving his sentence. And he must not travel beyond the boundaries of said city, nor change his place of residence or stay nor place of work. He must report twice a month for registration in the specialized government agency overseeing his serving his punishment of restricted liberty."


Baibak intends to appeal the sentence, Semen's stepfather, Ilia Korytko, told a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent. "Sure, he plans to appeal; he does not agree with it," he said.


Korytko said that 20 fellow believers came to the courthouse to support Baibak, but they were not admitted into the courthouse because of the coronavirus epidemic.


Ilya Korytko shared that Semen Baibak's family had been prepared for a real time prison term for him. "They were more prepared for real time and did not at all expect acquittal. There was a one percent chance that there would be an acquittal," he said.


Ruslan Alyev also intends to appeal his sentence; he was sentenced to two and a half years, also on the basis of the article about participation in the activity of an extremist organization (part 2 of article 282.2 of CC RF), Alyev's attorney, Roman Kakasiev, told the Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent.


Kakasiev said that in the sentence the court did not see any aggravating  circumstances and considered Alyev's positive character references as mitigating circumstances.


Ruslan Alyev's family also did not believe in an acquittal. "We understood that we would not get an acquittal and we were prepared even for real time. We have to appeal, where a harsher sentence is also possible," the believer's wife, Kristina Alyeva, told a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent. Alyev's house arrest also was cancelled by the verdict, she added. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 December 2020)

Background article:
Court sentences for mere membership in Jehovah's Witnesses congregation
December 17, 2020

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