Four Jehovah's Witnesses in Cheliabinsk face trial


Pavel Popov finds himself in defendant's dock because of his faith

Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 19 May 2021


On 18 May 2021, security forces conducted a search in the home of 44-year-old Pavel Popov from Emanzhelinsk, a city approximately 40 kilometers from Cheliabinsk. The believer was arrested, but later he was released on his own recognizance. A criminal case was opened based on part 1 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the R.F. (arranging extremist activity).


At 7:00, troops of the Russian Guard knocked loudly at the apartment of the Popov couple and ordered them to open the door. They stood Pavel against the wall with his arms raised. Later the investigator permitted the believer to move freely about the apartment. The search lasted five hours in the presence of corroborating witnesses, who stated that they were students of a law school and future police personnel. There also was a survey of the garage and Pavel's personal automobile. Law enforcement personnel seized from the Popovs telephones, tablets, computers, and a technical passport for the automobile, which, according to the investigator, will be a security deposit in the event of the believer's being fined.


After the search, the whole Popov family, including a 13-year-old daughter, was taken to the Cheliabinsk Investigative Committee for interrogation. Investigator Alexander Chepenko briefed Pavel on the preliminary materials of a criminal case that was opened on 22 April 2021. The documents seemed to be very similar to the materials of the case of another believer from Cheliabinsk, Valentina Suvorova. Pavel does not consider himself guilty of a "crime" consisting simply of professing a religion.


Two years ago, on 26 March 2020, a search was conducted in Pavel Popov's home, but after questioning he was released. The current Popov criminal case was separated from the case of Valentina Suvorova, who was given a suspended two-year sentence for her faith. In Cheliabinsk, Vladimir Suvorov and Dmitry Vinogradov also are being prosecuted for their faith. (tr. by PDS, posted 19 May 2021)

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