Case of Artamonova in Birobidzhan

Case history

In the life of Larisa Artamonova, a native of Birobidzhan, there were many difficulties: children’s psychological trauma due to the violent death of her father, the child’s illness, her own health problems. In September 2019, she faced reprisals because of her belief in Jehovah God — investigator D. Yankin opened a criminal case against Larisa under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. He believed that the woman had worked with others to spread the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The case in the Birobidzhan District Court was considered by Vladimir Mikhalev. He sentenced Artamonova to a fine of 10,000 rubles. Deputy Prosecutor A. Vyalkov filed an appeal with the court with a request to toughen the sentence and send the believer to a colony for 4 years. In February 2021, the Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region, having toughened the sentence, imposed a sentence of 2.5 years probation and 1 year of restriction of freedom. The cassation court upheld this decision. In June 2022, the believer’s punishment was canceled and her conviction was cleared.

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    September 25, 2019

    Senior Lieutenant of Justice D. S. Yankin, investigator of the Federal Security Service of Russia for the Jewish Autonomous Region, initiates a criminal case for faith under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation against Larisa Artamonova (born in 1970).

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    October 2, 2019

    Larisa Artamonova is officially charged with committing a crime under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and a preventive measure is chosen in the form of a written undertaking not to leave and proper behavior.

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    November 27, 2019

    Larisa Artamonova is charged with a new crime under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. According to the investigation, she "took a direct active part in the illegal religious event of Jehovah's Witnesses in the form of a congregation meeting."

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    February 26, 2020

    Deputy Prosecutor of the Jewish Autonomous Region, Senior Counselor of Justice Andrey Kolesnikov approves the indictment against Larisa Artamonova. The document cites the woman's active participation in religious events and meetings "for the purpose of spreading the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses ... by improving the skills of the field ministry."

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    March 3, 2020

    The case materials are transferred to the Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region.

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    April 2, 2020

    The case materials are transferred to the judge of the Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region, Vladimir Mikhalev. A preliminary hearing in the court of first instance is scheduled for April 13, 2020.

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    April 13, 2020

    The preliminary hearing is adjourned.

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    May 7, 2020

    The proceedings have been suspended.

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    February 11, 2021

    Debates are being held in the Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region. The prosecutor requests 4 years of imprisonment in a general regime colony and 1 year of probation for Larisa Artamonova with the obligation to report to the police once a month.

    In her appeal to the court, Larisa Artamonova draws attention to the fact that she became a Jehovah's Witness long before the appearance of a legal entity, a local religious organization, in which she is charged with participating. "My faith did not depend and does not depend on whether there is a legal seal or not. "At the time when I was, as the investigator says, attached to a religious denomination, Jehovah's Witnesses had already been rehabilitated as victims of political repression. They were allowed to gather together for prayers, chants, and Bible study. And before the decision of the Supreme Court in 2017, I was a peaceful believer who did not attract any attention to myself, and there were no complaints from law enforcement agencies against me."

    It states that it has nothing to do with extremism, and the charge encroaches on religious freedom enshrined in the Russian Constitution.

    Larisa Artamonova plans to give her last speech on February 12. On the same day, the verdict may be announced.

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    February 12, 2021 Final statement

    Referee: Vladimir Mikhalev. Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region (Pionerskaya Street, 32). The verdict is announced: to find Larisa Artamonova guilty under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (participation in extremist activities). With reference to Article 64 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, the court sentenced her to a fine of 10,000 rubles.

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    February 24, 2021

    Deputy Prosecutor A.A. Vyalkov is filing an appeal against the verdict of the Birobidzhan District Court. The state prosecutor believes that the punishment in the form of a fine of 10,000 rubles is excessively lenient and does not correspond to the "degree of public danger of the crime."

    The state prosecutor asks to assign Larisa Artamonova a severe punishment - 4 years of imprisonment in a penal colony of general regime, followed by restriction of freedom for a period of 2 years (not to change her permanent place of residence and not to leave the municipality without notifying the specialized body, to appear twice a month to report on her behavior). The prosecutor demands that the believer be taken into custody in the courtroom.

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    April 20, 2021 Court of Appeal

    Having considered the appeal against the verdict of Larisa Artamonova, the court of the Jewish Autonomous Region decided to sentence the believer to 2.5 years of suspended sentence and 1 year of restriction of freedom. The verdict comes into force immediately, but can be appealed in cassation and international instances.

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    December 6, 2021

    A hearing is being held in the Ninth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction. Larisa Artamonova arrives in Vladivostok to personally speak before the panel of judges chaired by Yevgeny Zheleznov.

    The believer draws attention to the decision of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of Russia, adopted on October 28, 2021, which explains that when considering a criminal case on a crime under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, it is necessary to establish specific illegal actions, what is their significance for the continuation or resumption of the activities of an extremist organization and what motives guided the person.

    In her speech, Artamonova emphasizes that only bare legal constructions appear in the case materials, such as "deliberately ... aware of the public danger... took part in an illegal religious event," etc.

    She continues: "No evidence confirms the extremist nature of my actions or motives. Neither the verdict nor the appellate ruling states what my extremism was, or whether my actions (and what exactly) were significant for the continuation of the extremist activities of the liquidated organizations. [...] Was it enough to prove the fact of any participation in the religious activities of Jehovah's Witnesses to establish the event and corpus delicti? As the law indicates, no! If there are no extremist actions, there is no corpus delicti."

    After hearing the believer's speech and not asking her a single question, the judges decide to leave Larisa Artamonova's complaint dismissed, and the verdict in the appellate instance — 2.5 years of suspended sentence and 1 year of restriction of freedom — unchanged.

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    June 14, 2022

    The Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region is considering the petition of Larisa Artamonova to cancel the suspended sentence and remove the criminal record.

    The inspector and the prosecutor confirm that there were no violations on the part of the believer and they are not against the removal of the criminal record. From the place of work, Artamonova was provided with a positive characteristic.

    Judge Vasilina Bezotecheskikh grants the believer's petition without any additional questions.