TRIAL ON MERITS OF RELIGION OF TWO RESIDENTS OF KEMEROVO OBLAST BEGINS
Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 19 August 2019
In the city of Berezovsky (Kemerovo oblast), hearings have begun in the criminal case against Sergei Britviny and Vadim Levchuk. They both have been in a SIZO for more than a year. Subsequent sessions are scheduled for 20 and 21 August, and 3, 4, 17, and 18 September 2019.
The hearings are proceeding in the Berezovsky city court of Kemerovo oblast with Judge Irina Vorobevaya presiding. Both believers are charged with organizing religious activity that law enforcement agencies interpret as extremism (part 1, article 282.2 of the CC RF). According to reports of Sergei and Vadim's friends, they radiate optimism. In July Sergei Britvin was in the prison hospital, but now his condition has improved. Sergei is an invalid of the second class; by occupation he is a driver and crane operator. Vadim Levchuk worked many years as a miner and he has gratitude from the enterprise for conscientious labor.
The life of the two peaceful Berezovskans changed abruptly on 22 July 2018 when a wave of searches in believers' apartments went through the city. One woman received a slight injury during the storming of her apartment. Two days later, on 24 July, Judge Natalia Naumova of the Central district court ordered to place Britvin and Levchuk in custody in SIZO-1 of Kemerovo. Subsequently a court moved them to SIZO-4 of the city of Anzhero-Sudzhenska, where they have been until now.
Law enforcement agencies of Kemerovo oblast remain of the conviction that residents of the region may not profess the faith of Jehovah's Witnesses despite the fact that this right is guaranteed by article 28 of the constitution of the RF. Believers insist that they have nothing to do with extremism. The government of Russia has confirmed that decisions of Russian courts for liquidation and prohibition of their organizations "do not give an assessment of the religious teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses and do not contain restriction or prohibition of confessing the aforesaid teaching individually." (tr. by PDS, posted 20 August 2019)
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