Case of Zagulina in Birobidzhan

Case history

Fashion designer and manicure master Tatyana Zagulina, following her husband Dmitry, was under investigation because of her faith in Jehovah God. In February 2020, FSB forensic investigator Dmitry Yankin opened criminal cases against Tatyana and other law-abiding residents of Birobidzhan, accusing them of extremism. In August 2020, the case went to court. During the process, one of the prosecution witnesses spoke positively about the behavior of the believers, another could not recognize the accused, and police officer Zvereva stated that she had not heard extremist calls from Zagulina. In April 2021, the Birobidzhan court sentenced Zagulina to 2 years and 6 months probation and 2 years of restriction of freedom. In September 2021, the Court of Appeal upheld the verdict, and in May 2022, the Court of Cassation upheld it. In November 2022, the court cleared the believer’s criminal record and canceled the sentence.

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    February 6, 2020

    D. Yankin, a senior investigator-criminalist of the investigative department of the FSB of Russia for the Jewish Autonomous Region, initiates 6 criminal cases for faith against 6 women at once: 57-year-old Irina Lokhvitskaya, 26-year-old Anna Lokhvitskaya, 26-year-old Tatyana Sholner, 35-year-old Tatyana Zagulina, 40-year-old Anastasia Guzeva and 41-year-old Nataliya Kriger . All six women are charged with part 2 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. According to investigators, they resumed the activities of the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Birobidzhan, which was liquidated in 2016, as well as the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. (Earlier, the defendants in the criminal case under similar articles were the husbands of Natalia Krieger, Tatyana Zagulina and Anastasia Guzeva - Valery Krieger, Dmitry Zagulin and Konstantin Guzev. And Irina and Anna Lokhvitsky were prosecuted after their son and husband Artur Lokhvitsky.)

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    February 12, 2020

    FSB investigator D. Yankin is initiating another case under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation against 44-year-old Andrey Gubin. On the same day, I. Fedorov, a senior investigator of the FSB Investigation Department, opened a similar case against 55-year-old Oleg Postnikov. (A total of 19 criminal cases were initiated against 22 believers in the city.)

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    February 18, 2020

    Investigator of the Federal Security Service of Russia for the Jewish Autonomous Region D.S. Yankin charges Tatyana Zagulina with committing a crime under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

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    February 19, 2020

    The investigator of the FSB of Russia for the Jewish Autonomous Region Yankin D.S. chooses Tatyana Zagulina a preventive measure in the form of a written undertaking not to leave and proper behavior.

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    July 30, 2020

    The materials of the criminal case with the indictment against Tatyana Zagulina are sent to the prosecutor.

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    August 19, 2020

    The case is transferred to the Birobidzhan District Court and transferred to Judge Yulia Tsykina.

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    September 17, 2020

    A preliminary hearing of the case is underway. The believer makes a number of petitions. Judge Yulia Tsykina gives the prosecutor time to prepare her comments on these motions.

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    October 2, 2020 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Referee: Yulia Tsykina. Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region (Pionerskaya Street, 32).

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    October 22, 2020

    The trial in the Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region begins with the interrogation of prosecution witnesses. The first witness is an employee of a café where believers held weddings and vacations with children, which the prosecution is trying to present as one of the meetings of members of a banned organization. The witness confirms that the believers spent friendly evenings in the café, behaved "decorously and nobly, ate, drank tea, danced, no problems arose."

    The second witness for the prosecution is that of another believer from Birobidzhan, Larisa Artamonova, who was witnessed during a search in the apartment of elderly parents. Looking at Tatyana Zagulina and her lawyer, he asks which of them is the defendant.

    The witness talks about the circumstances of the search in the Artamonovs' apartment, noting that there were no calls for extremism or incitement to religious hatred from the believers.

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    January 26, 2021

    Judge Yulia Tsykina rejects 3 petitions of Tatyana Zagulina. One of them is about the inadmissibility of interrogating prosecution witness Zvereva (a police officer who participated in operational-search activities against Birobidzhan believers in 2015-2016, when literature was planted in the worship buildings of Jehovah's Witnesses, she also testified at the hearings in the cases of Yevgeny Golik and Anastasia Sycheva). Motions for publicity of the trial and for the recognition of some evidence as inadmissible are also rejected.

    Witness Zverev is being interrogated. She notes that she has not heard any extremist appeals from either Zagulina or any other participant in the services of Jehovah's Witnesses. According to her, Tatyana was a simple listener at religious meetings, and the meetings themselves were held peacefully, the topics of family and raising children were discussed.

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    February 5, 2021

    A witness for the defense, a former classmate of Tatyana Zagulina, whom she has known since 2001, is speaking. She describes her as "a gentle, good-natured person, sympathetic, cheerful, calm and non-confrontational." "He lives according to the laws of the Bible," the witness adds.

    The judge satisfies the motions to attach the characteristics of the defendant to the case file and to view video recordings.

    The next meeting is scheduled for February 19, 2021 at 14:15.

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    February 19, 2021

    At the court session, videos of biblical speeches are watched, in which listeners are encouraged to develop good qualities, fight bad habits and help each other.

    Tatiana comments: "It is clear from the video that we [Jehovah's Witnesses] not only maintain spiritual and moral, but also physical purity. We were taught to take care of our appearance, to observe personal hygiene, thereby taking care of our neighbors, of each other. Is this extremism? On the contrary, we learn only useful things."

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    March 23, 2021 Prosecutor requested punishment

    The prosecution requests 4 years of imprisonment in a general regime colony and 2 years of restriction of freedom for Tatyana Zagulina, with the obligation to report to the Federal Penitentiary Service twice a month. On March 31, 2021, at 5:00 p.m., the believer will deliver her last word in court.

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    March 31, 2021 First Instance Sentence

    Tatyana Zagulina resolutely denies the guilt of extremism, emphasizing that she is in the dock solely for her faith. According to the believer, she did not commit any crimes and did not harm anyone. Even the actions of the security forces during the search were aimed not at an unbiased search for manifestations of extremism, but at proving that Tatyana Zagulina professes the religious views of Jehovah's Witnesses.

    The court sets the date for the announcement of the verdict: April 1, 2021.

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    April 1, 2021 First Instance Sentence

    Judge Yulia Tsykina finds Tatyana Zagulina guilty and sentences her to 2 years and 6 months of suspended imprisonment and 2 years of restriction of liberty.

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    April 2, 2021
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    September 16, 2021

    The court of the Jewish Autonomous Region does not satisfy the appeal of Tatyana Zagulina. The verdict comes into force.

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    June 8, 2022 Court of Cassation

    The Ninth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction in Vladivostok upholds the sentence of Tatyana Zagulina - 2 years and 6 months suspended.

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    November 3, 2022 Clearing criminal records

    Judge N. A. Shibanova satisfies the petition for the cancellation of the suspended sentence and the removal of the criminal record from Tatyana Zagulina. Now the believer is considered unconvicted.