Appellate courts tending to favor Jehovah's Witnesses in central Russia


Oktagon.Ural, 17 March 2022


In Sverdlovsk oblast, a high-profile criminal case against devotees of the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses (considered extremist and forbidden in Russia) Alexander Prianikov, Venera Dulovaya, and Darya Dulovaya ended in a verdict of acquittal. These persons were the first adherents of the movement in the region to come to the notice of law enforcement. The verdict may affect other cases that are also being considered by courts.


The case against the devotees of the Jehovah's Witnesses from Karpinsk was begun back in 2018 and was the first in Sverdlovsk oblast from the time when the organization was ruled by the Russian Supreme Court to be extremist. The reason for the prosecution was the preaching of the defendants. Prianikov and the Dulovayas went from house to house and talked about their faith. In one of the houses they came upon a police officer in civilian clothes, who initiated the arrest.


The investigation of the case was conducted along with the police by agents of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the region. The investigation group was able to establish that the defendants preached the ideas of the superiority of some people over others and they even distributed literature that was ruled in the R.F. to be extremist. The devotees of the movement themselves maintained that they merely described their faith and that is not against the law.


In 2020, a Karpinsk city court issued the first verdict: Prianikov and the Dulovayas were ruled to be guilty and given suspended sentences of imprisonment for terms of 2 and 2.6 years. After the decision was overturned by a Sverdlovsk oblast court, the case was remanded for reconsideration, and on the basis of the verdict from 2021 the terms were reduced to 1 to 2 years. The guilty verdict was widely reported by law enforcement agencies, but it was appealed again and the case was sent to the Sverdlovsk oblast court for another review.


This time the appellate court did not want to send the materials for a new consideration in the court of the first instance and it rendered a decision on the merits, and completely exonerated the defendants.


According to information of Oktagon.Ural, this was unexpected for representatives of the state's prosecution, which is now reviewing the matter of further appeal of the decision.


"Now the verdict of acquittal has taken legal effect, and the defendants have the right to rehabilitation. But most likely this case will be begun after it is reviewed in cassation court," a source from the Advocates Association of Karpinsk, who is acquainted with materials of the case, told Oktagon.Ural.


The verdict of acquittal may affect another criminal case against six followers of the forbidden organization, which is being considered in the Karpinsk city court. They are charged not only with participation in the activity of an extremist organization but also of enticing minors into it.


"In this criminal case, a lot of testimony and evidence was used that had been in the first case of Prianikov and the Dulovayas. Therefore it cannot be ruled out that if the verdict of acquittal is finally upheld, the court will have to take into account the decisions of the higher instances," an attorney for the defendants in the new case explained. (tr. by PDS, posted 17 March 2022)

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