The case of Gizatulin in Chelyabinsk

Case History

Vadim Gizatulin faced persecution for his faith in 2019: his house was searched as part of the Vladimir Suvorov case. Hidden audio and video filming was carried out behind the believers. A certain Ruzayeva, under the guise of a person interested in the Bible, collected information for the Center “E”. In 2021, the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against Vadim Gizatulin, an electrician from Chelyabinsk. His house was searched again. The investigation considered it illegal actions that he participated in worship services, singing songs and saying prayers. In August 2022, Gizatulin’s case went to court. In December of the same year, the court sentenced the believer to 2 years of probation, and in February 2023, the court of appeal upheld this decision.

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    February 6, 2018

    A judge of the Chelyabinsk Regional Court gives permission to conduct operational-search measures "Observation" in relation to unidentified members of the "local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses" (hereinafter referred to as LRO).

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    March 26, 2019

    As part of the criminal case against Vladimir Suvorov , security forces are conducting a search in the apartment of Vadim Gizatulin. Electronic devices and data carriers, the Bible, and personal records are seized from him.

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    August 11, 2021

    Alexander Chepenko, investigator of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Chelyabinsk Region, who initiated almost all cases against Jehovah's Witnesses in this region, separates materials from the case of Vladimir Suvorov regarding Vadim Gizatulin, Olga Zhelavskaya and Irina Mikhailenko into separate proceedings.

    The believers are suspected of "deliberately participating in the activities of a banned local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses ... in the form of participation in religious meetings ... and also carried out preaching work among the inhabitants of Chelyabinsk and the Chelyabinsk region."

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    August 31, 2021

    Based on the results of the review of the materials, investigator Chepenko initiates a separate criminal case against Gizatulin, Mikhailenko and Zhelavskaya.

    The decision to initiate the case states, among other things, that the believers "acted from religious motives" and participated in "collective worship, consisting in successive performances of songs ... and praying to Jehovah God, studying and discussing articles and religious texts."

    The guilt of Olga Zhelavskaya and Irina Mikhailenko, according to the investigation, is also that they received fellow believers at home.

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    October 22, 2021
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    October 27, 2021

    The investigator prosecutes Gizatulin and Mikhailenko as defendants under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code.

    Among other things, Mikhailenko is accused of attending an international religious congress in South Korea in 2019.

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    April 28, 2022

    An additional comprehensive psychological, linguistic and religious examination is being carried out. According to her conclusion, Vadim Gizatulin, Olga Zhelavskaya and Irina Mikhailenko belong to the same confession, their activities are organized, bear signs of cohesion, unity of purpose, language. Psychological and linguistic signs of incitement of hostility towards persons on the basis of gender, race, nationality, language, religion were not found by experts.

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    July 13, 2022

    It becomes known that the materials of the case against Olga Zhelavskaya are separated into separate proceedings.

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    July 14, 2022

    Vadim Gizatulin is elected a measure of restraint in the form of a written undertaking not to leave and proper behavior.

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    July 25, 2022

    Gizatulin and his lawyer are completing their acquaintance with the materials of the criminal case.

    Gizatulin's accusation is based on the testimony of Lilia Ruzayeva, who attended religious services and made hidden audio and video recordings on the instructions of Center "E" Myzgin. In the course of operational-search activities, it was established that Vadim Gizatulin "helped to conduct religious services, was responsible for computer equipment, read out religious texts." A detailed description of the telephone conversations of the believers revealed that at a certain time they were at a specific address from which the service was conducted. The investigation interprets this as holding a "meeting of the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Chelyabinsk", which was liquidated by the court in April 2017 and then ended its activities.

    Investigator Chepenko believes that if at a meeting of believers "we are talking about a joint confession of faith ... worship in the form of prayers to Jehovah, acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures", then this "is a continuation of the activities of the banned extremist organization "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia".

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    August 4, 2022

    The case of Vadim Gizatulin is transferred to the Metallurgicheskiy District Court of Chelyabinsk. It is appointed to Judge Vitaliy Sirotin.

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    August 18, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The prosecutor reads out the indictment.

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    October 3, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    A prosecution witness, a police major, is being questioned. He is personally acquainted with the defendant. In his opinion, the believer's fault lies in the fact that he set up the equipment and helped in organizing the services that took place in the homes of believers. When asked by the lawyer where the witness got this information, he replies that it is a state secret.

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    October 27, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The defendant speaks with an attitude to the prosecution. He draws attention to the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in favor of Jehovah's Witnesses and protecting their right to conduct religious activities. The believer also quotes the President of the Russian Federation, who called Jehovah's Witnesses Christians. In addition, Gizatulin refers to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which guarantees citizens freedom of religion.

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

    Prosecution witness Lilia Ruzayeva, an informant for the special services, is being interrogated online. The woman repeats her testimony given earlier and states that at the services the defendant turned on video recordings and prepared speeches based on the Bible.

    When asked by the defendant whether she had heard from him calls for the severance of family ties or any violent acts, she replied in the negative.

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    November 24, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The defendant is being interrogated. He declares his innocence, referring to the decision of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, as well as the decision of the ECHR, which recognized the liquidation of legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and the ban on their activities illegal.

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    December 7, 2022 Closing arguments for the defense Final statement First Instance Sentence

    The court sentences Vadim Gizatulin to 2 years of suspended imprisonment.

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    February 6, 2023 Court of Appeal

    The Chelyabinsk City Court upholds the decision of the lower court for Vadim Gizatulin - 2 years suspended.