The Kriger case in Birobidzhan

Case history

In May 2018, the home of a Birobidzhan resident, Natalya Kriger, was searched by law enforcement officers. Three days earlier, a criminal case was initiated against her husband Valeriy for extremism, and in February 2020, the FSB initiated a criminal case against Natalia herself. She was accused of continuing the activity of an extremist organization. In August 2020, the believer’s case went to court. The prosecutor requested a sentence of 4 years in prison for her, and in July 2021 the court gave the believer a 2.5-year suspended sentence. The court of appeal upheld the verdict, but in August 2022, the court of cassation sent the case back for a new appeal, which, in turn, returned the case for review to the court of first instance to another judge. He also gave the believer a 2.5-year suspended sentence. The court of appeal upheld this verdict.

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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 5 criminal cases for faith against 5 women at once: 57-year-old Irina Lokhvitskaya, 26-year-old Anna Lokhvitskaya, 26-year-old Tatyana Sholner, 35-year-old Tatyana Zagulina and 40-year-old Anastasia Guzeva. All 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 initiates two more cases under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation - against 41-year-old Natalia Kriger and 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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    September 16, 2020

    The judge of the Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region, Vasilina Bezotecheskikh, without the participation of the parties, makes a decision to appoint a closed court hearing in the criminal case of Natalia Krieger. It is noteworthy that on the same day, the same judge is hearing three other women. Among them are Anna and Irina Lokhvitsky (daughter-in-law and mother-in-law), as well as Anastasia Guzeva.

    The case will be considered behind closed doors, i.e. without the participation of the media, listeners and relatives. According to the judge, an open hearing of the case may lead to the disclosure of secrets protected by law - the personal data of minors whose data appear in the case file.

    The next hearing is scheduled for September 29, 2020.

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    September 29, 2020

    The first court hearing on the merits is underway.

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    April 16, 2021

    The court gets acquainted with the materials of the case, the volume of which is more than 30 volumes.

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    April 30, 2021

    At the next court session, a video recording of a religious meeting is viewed, during which the judge and the prosecutor indicate to the defendant her participation in the worship service. Nataliya explains that during the meeting, Bible teachings were discussed to encourage love for all people.

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    May 20, 2021

    The court interrogates prosecution witness Zvereva. A number of inaccuracies were revealed in her testimony.

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    July 6, 2021

    A believer shows videos of religious meetings. Nataliya draws the prosecutor's attention to the fact that there are no calls for violence and extremism at the services, and the disciples of Jesus Christ have always been distinguished by love.

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    July 12, 2021 Prosecutor requested punishment

    In the Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region, a defense witness who has known the defendant since elementary school is being interrogated. She speaks of Natalia as a "cheerful, adequate, well-read person" with whom she had no conflicts. According to the witness, who does not share Nataliya's religious views, the believer never imposed her beliefs on her or humiliated representatives of other religions, nor did she speak out against state power. "She won't hurt a fly ... I can only say good things about her," the witness said.

    The debate begins. The prosecutor requests a sentence of 4 years in prison and 2 years of restriction of freedom for Nataliya, with the obligation to report twice a month at the FSIN supervisory institution.

    At the next hearing, the defense will take the floor in the debate.

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    July 19, 2021 Prosecutor requested punishment

    The lawyer speaks with the debate, citing the facts of violation of international and Russian law, as well as evidence of the innocence of Natalia Krieger.

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    July 30, 2021 Final statement First Instance Sentence

    Judge of the Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region Vasilina Bezotecheskikh sentences Natalia Krieger to 2 years and 6 months of suspended imprisonment and 1 year of restriction of freedom.

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    November 25, 2021 Court of Appeal

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

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    November 26, 2021
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    August 2, 2022
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    September 22, 2022
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    February 23, 2023 Prosecutor requested punishment

    Speaking in the debate, the prosecutor asks for a sentence of 2.5 years probation, as well as 2 years of restriction of freedom.

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    March 28, 2023
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    May 22, 2023