The case of Ananin in Belovo

Case history

Sergey Ananin from Belovo was detained and placed in a temporary detention facility after a search of his home in February 2021. On that day, the security forces also came to his wife’s parents and several fellow believers. As it turned out, a peaceful believer became a defendant in a criminal case on extremism, which was initiated by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation. After two days in custody, Ananin, who had recently suffered a heart attack and heart surgery, was placed under house arrest. This preventive measure deprived him of the opportunity to receive the full medical care necessary for recovery after surgery. In January 2022, the believer’s case went to court. The prosecution involved representatives of various churches, as well as a religious scholar, as witnesses. They did not know the defendant personally, and they had nothing bad to say about Jehovah’s Witnesses in general. In March 2023, the court sentenced Sergey Ananin to 6 years in prison, the sentence was left in force by the appelation and cassation.

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    February 9, 2021

    Investigator for particularly important cases of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee for the Kemerovo Region - Kuzbass M. A. Nikitin initiates a criminal case against Sergey Ananin. The believer is accused of organizing the activities of an extremist community. This is how the investigation interprets Ananin's joint meetings with fellow believers.

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    February 14, 2021 Search

    At least six believers are being searched in Belovo. Ananin is detained and placed in a temporary detention facility.

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    February 15, 2021

    Sergey Ananin is charged with committing a crime under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

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    February 16, 2021

    The Central District Court of Kemerovo chooses a measure of restraint for Ananin in the form of house arrest until April 9, 2021. Judge Anton Dontsov does not take into account the state of health of the believer, who recently suffered a massive heart attack and heart surgery. Ananin needs to be observed by a doctor and visit a hospital in Kemerovo, which is 120 km from his place of residence.

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    September 3, 2021

    The Central District Court of the city of Kemerovo seizes Ananin's funds with a total amount of 3300 rubles. This money was seized from the believer during a search of his home.

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    January 25, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    On January 25, 2022, the believer's case is submitted to the Belovsky City Court of the Kemerovo Region.

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    February 7, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    22 people come to the courthouse to support the believer.

    The defendant expresses his disagreement with the prosecution and submits a motion to terminate the criminal case. The court rejects it.

    The question of the measure of restraint of the defendant is being considered. The judge reads out a positive description of Ananin from his place of work. The court extends the believer's house arrest for another 6 months

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    February 15, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Near the courthouse there is a support group for a believer of 10 people.

    The court dismisses the defendant's request to suspend the proceedings due to the difficult epidemiological situation in the Russian Federation and the Kemerovo region.

    The prosecutor reads out the indictment.

    4 prosecution witnesses are being questioned. The first of them, a senior forensic expert of the Investigative Committee, reads out an expert opinion, according to which no signs of illegal activity were found in Sergey Ananin's laptop and flash drive under study.

    Two other witnesses tell the court that they know the defendant personally and cannot provide any evidence confirming the extremist activities of Sergei Ananin.

    "He does not deviate from the canonical norms - "do not kill, do not steal" - and other well-known principles," explains one of them.

    The next witness for the prosecution, an employee of the defendant at work, confirms that he knows Sergey as a wonderful family man and a person who respects the religious beliefs of others. In addition, Sergey is known to him as an excellent specialist, who has proven himself well in the circle of colleagues, who had no complaints from the management and disagreements with employees. "We are waiting for him at work," says the witness.

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    March 16, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The questioning of prosecution witnesses is ongoing.

    The defendant's former boss tells the court that he has known Ananin since 1991, when they simultaneously came to work at the Belovskaya State District Power Plant. He notes that Sergey became one of Jehovah's Witnesses in the early 1990s and has held himself to high moral standards ever since. In addition, according to the witness, Ananin's attitude towards people of other faiths is respectful. The witness never heard any calls for religious hatred or for the overthrow of the state system from him. He notes: "And he is a trouble-free worker. I would like such workers."

    The court summons the defendant's wife and daughter for questioning. They use Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which allows them not to testify against their loved ones. The prosecutor reads out their testimonies from the case file, witnesses confirm them.

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    April 4, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court is interrogating the following prosecution witness, Arkady Rakhov, a representative of the Kemerovo diocese, a teacher of the discipline "New Religious Movements" at the Kemerovo State Institute of Culture. He explains to the court that he professes Orthodoxy. The witness is not personally acquainted with Ananin, and he cannot give examples confirming that anyone has ever suffered from the actions of Jehovah's Witnesses.

    Further, the court interrogates the prosecution witness Vasily Mokritsky, a priest of the Orthodox Church "Ascension Church" in the city of Belovo. He says that he has communicated a lot with Jehovah's Witnesses, knows their creeds, but does not know the defendant and has no negative information about him.

    The last to be interrogated is Vladislav Bashtanov, a district police officer at the defendant's place of residence. He reports that he interviewed Ananin's neighbors to compile a characterization of him. All respondents gave positive characteristics.

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    May 16, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court interrogates prosecution witness Yulia Anulyeva (acting head of the department of the Ministry of Justice of Russia in the Kemerovo region, Kuzbass). She confirms that Jehovah's Witnesses have been officially registered in the city of Belovo since 1993, and that throughout the years that followed, they followed all the procedures required by law to re-register and formalize their activities. She did not receive any information confirming the facts of extremist or illegal activities of Jehovah's Witnesses. She agrees with the defendant that the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia was not banned, their worship services, joint meetings for chants and prayers are not illegal.

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    July 11, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    A new prosecutor enters the case - the sixth since the beginning of the trial.

    The defense is requesting that the court send a request for the defendant's health to the cardiology center in the city of Kemerovo. The judge grants the request.

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    July 22, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    25 people come to support the believer, all of them are near the courtroom. The prosecutor changes again in the case.

    A witness for the prosecution, a pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is being questioned. The witness does not confirm the testimony that he previously gave to the investigator, says that he signed the interrogation protocol without reading, does not know the defendant personally, and knows about Jehovah's Witnesses only from the media.

    The judge extends Sergey Ananin's detention under house arrest until October 25, 2022.

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    October 19, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The last witness for the prosecution, religious scholar Vadim Schiller, is being interrogated. In his opinion, there was no propaganda inciting hostility between people in the actions of Sergei Ananin, and the "extremism" of the believer consisted in the fact that he quoted "Holy Scripture - New World Translation." The religious scholar expresses the opinion that "all Jehovah's Witnesses . . . are good, God-fearing people."

    Shiller acknowledges that the October 28, 2021 Supreme Court ruling emphasizes the right of Jehovah's Witnesses to practice their religion—including worship—individually or in community with others. However, the witness interprets this as follows: "If Sergey Viktorovich held meetings in a narrow circle, with his wife, with his daughter and some relatives, 1-2 people came and prayed, this would be their legal right."

    On this day, about 20 people come to the courthouse to support the believer.

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    December 2, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    There is a support group of 22 people outside the courthouse.

    The study of the case materials, volumes 5 to 7, continues. The judge stops on the page where it is reported about the money seized from the defendant during a search at his place of residence. She reads aloud the amount: 3300 rubles - and asks Ananin: "This amount was seized from you"? He answers in the affirmative.

    The prosecutor is again replaced in the case. By the eleventh meeting, this is the seventh prosecutor.

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    January 18, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    30 people gather around the building to support the believer.

    The thirteenth hearing on the merits is underway, at which the case materials are examined.

    The judge decides to extend the measure of restraint for Sergey Ananin in the form of house arrest until April 25, 2023.

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    February 6, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    To support Sergei Ananin, 20 people gather near the courthouse.

    A new prosecutor, Elena Samoilenko, once again enters the case. She reads out the case file.

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    March 13, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court examines volumes 15 to 17. The defendant asks the judge why the state prosecutor does not read out the case materials, but flips through them. Prosecutor Elena Samoilenko begins to read out the 18th volume, dwelling on the positive characteristics of Ananin from the place of work, from the district police officer and neighbors. She also mentions certificates of honor from production and from school management for the good upbringing of children and assistance in repairing the school.

    Judge Galina Proshchenko intends to proceed to the interrogation of the defendant, but at the request of the lawyer, she postpones the hearing so that the believer can prepare. She also attaches to the case file an extract from the cardiology center regarding the health of the believer.

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    March 14, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court proceeds to the interrogation of Sergey Ananin. "I am a believer," he says in his defense, "and my conscience, trained in the Bible, does not allow me even to have evil thoughts against others, so as not to harm people and society as a whole. I respect the existing authorities, because according to my beliefs, respect for authority is the same as respect for God, because the Bible says that God allows this authority.

    The believer draws attention to the fact that according to the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, the letter of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the decision of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, participation in peaceful worship after the liquidation of legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses is not a crime.

    Ananin also reminds listeners that the Supreme Court "did not assess the legality of the religious beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses and the ways in which they were expressed," including the conduct of joint worship based on the Holy Scriptures (the Bible). He says that Jehovah's Witnesses use different translations of the Bible, for example, the translation of Pavsky, Kuznetsova, Archimandrite Macarius, the Synodal translation, the Modern Translation, and that the name of God, Jehovah, is found in them.

    The defendant quotes an excerpt from the Orthodox Encyclopedia of 1891: "Under the name of Jehovah you will find the following words: 'Jehovah is one of the names of God, great and holy, meaning the originality, eternity and immutability of God's being.'" Sergey concludes: "On these grounds, I do not fully understand what my criminal activity is."

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    March 21, 2023 Prosecutor requested punishment

    The prosecutor is requesting 8 years in a penal colony for Sergey Ananin. The defendant asks to listen to audio recordings of the services, "since the transcripts available in the case file are incomplete, the words are not always legible, and sometimes their meaning is frankly deliberately distorted." The judge rejects this and other defense motions.

    50 people come to the courthouse to support the believer.

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    March 31, 2023 Final statement

    Speaking with the last word, Sergey Ananin does not admit his guilt and asks to acquit him.

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    April 3, 2023 Detention center

    Convicted Sergey Ananin is taken to pre-trial detention center No. 4 in Anzhero-Sudzhensk, Kemerovo Region.

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    May 16, 2023 Life in prison

    The believer has been in pre-trial detention center No. 4 in Anzhero-Sudzhensk since March 31, 2023. He is being held in a 4-bed cell.

    Sergey is experiencing health problems. But, according to Ananin himself, he considers the separation from his wife and daughter to be the most difficult in his situation. He draws a lot of support from letters from his wife and friends.

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    June 14, 2023
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    August 2, 2023 Transfer of a prisoner Life in prison Art. 282.2 (1)

    Sergey is in good emotional and physical condition. His transfer to the colony has already been postponed several times.

    Sergey is the fifth Jehovah's Witness in the Anzhero-Sudzhensk pre-trial detention center after Vadim Levchuk, Sergey Britvin, Yuriy Usanov , and Maksim Morozov. Thanks to them, the prisoners have a good opinion of Jehovah's Witnesses, so his cellmates respect Ananin.

    A great support for a believer is to meet with his wife twice a month. Sergey also regularly receives programs with products and willingly shares them with others.

    The believer notes some interruptions in the delivery and dispatch of correspondence - it does not always reach the addressees. Despite this, Ananin receives many letters.

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    August 20, 2023 Transfer of a prisoner Life in prison

    Sergey Ananin is taken to a penal colony in Novosibirsk, where Andrei Vlasov is currently serving his sentence for his faith.

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    December 6, 2023 Life in prison Penalty Punishment cell Letters

    Sergey Ananin is serving his sentence in a detachment of about 70 people. He has a good relationship with the prisoners. The believer takes the necessary medications. Letters are a great support for him. Ananin has the opportunity to read the Bible regularly. He also already had one long-term date with his wife.

    Since his admission to the colony, Sergei has already been subjected to punishment four times: twice he was reprimanded and twice he was placed in a punishment cell.

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    January 30, 2024 Court of Cassation Deprivation of liberty Art. 282.2 (1) Health risk
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    February 3, 2024 Life in prison Letters

    The believer is being held under strict conditions of serving his sentence (SWON) along with 13 other prisoners. Relations with cellmates are respectful, Sergey is the oldest among them.

    In October 2023, Ananin had a long date with his wife. He has a Bible and receives regular letters of support. He is grateful to his family and friends for their support.

    Sergey is experiencing health problems, in February they plan to take him for examination to a cardiologist. For health reasons, he was even released from morning exercises. Since his arrest, he has lost 10 kilograms.