Some Jehovah's Witnesses benefit from Supreme Court's ruling


Novaya Gazeta, 18 January 2022


A Kamchatka territorial court, during a second consideration of the case, ruled three Jehovah's Witnesses to be not guilty: the married couple Konstantin and Snezhana Bazhenov and the retiree Vera Zolotova. Novaya Gazeta was told this in the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses.


Previously all three were found guilty of participating in the activity of an extremist organization (part 2, article 282.2 of the Criminal Code).


"Throughout Russia, appellate sessions are under way with regard to illegal sentences issued to Jehovah's Witnesses. We are hoping that the Kamchatka example will affect the actions of other judges and they will take on the courage to correct mistakes committed by their colleagues," declared Yaroslav Sivulsky, a representative of the association.


In September 2020, an Elizov district court sentenced the Bazhenovs and Zolotova to suspended two-year prison terms, with a subsequent restriction of liberty for 6 months. The court ruled that the 75-year-old Zolotova and 44-year-old Bazhenovs participated in the activity of an extremist organization, since they discussed the Bible with comrades. An appeals court left the sentence without change, although the case was returned for a second appellate consideration after it was appealed in a cassation court.


In November, a Pskov oblast court overturned a guilty verdict for the Jehovah's Witness Aleksei Khabarov in a case about arranging the activity of a religious association, which had been ruled to be extremist (part 2, article 282.2 CC). Earlier a Pervorechka district court of Vladivostok had ruled the Jehovah's Witness Dmitry Barmakin to be innocent in the same case.


In late October the plenum of the Russian Supreme Court ruled that meetings and worship services of Jehovah's Witnesses cannot be considered extremist activity. The ruling indicated that it is conducting conversations for the purpose of promoting activity of a banned organization and the direct participation in events that occur, and the like, that is to be considered participation in the activity of an extremist organization (part 2, article 282.2 CC).


Prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses began in 2017 after a decision of the Supreme Court ruling this organization to be extremist. Since then, criminal cases have been started against their adherents, searches have been conducted in their homes, and rights activists have reported torture of believers. (tr. by PDS, posted 18 January 2022)

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