Case of Zimovskiy and others in Georgievsk

Case history

At the end of 2019, homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses were searched in Georgievsk. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation accused Viktor Zimovskiy as well as Anatoly and Irina Gezika, a married couple, of organizing and participating in the activity of an extremist organization. The investigator considered reading the Bible and praying together to be a crime. Viktor Zimovskiy is a father of three minor children and was classed as disabled after his heart surgery. Despite this, the court placed him in a detention center for two months. The criminal case was considered in court from February to October 2022. Viktor Zimovskiy was sentenced to six years and two months in a penal colony, Anatoly Gezik was sentenced to four years and two months of forced labor, and Irina Gezik was given a suspended sentence of four years and two months. The appellate court replaced the terms of imprisonment and of forced labor with suspended sentences of the same duration.

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    October 23, 2019

    Police are conducting raids in three houses of residents of Georgievsk. Hosts and guests are questioned about their religion and meetings with fellow believers, and their electronic devices are confiscated. Residents are thrown flash drives.

    During the search, 50-year-old Viktor Zimovskiy, the father of two young children, becomes ill. Victor is a pensioner with a disability, some time ago he underwent serious heart surgery. However, he and 10 other people are taken away for interrogations, and later released.

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    December 30, 2019

    Senior investigator of the Investigation Department for Georgievsk of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for Stavropol Ostya A.M. initiates a criminal case under two "extremist" articles. The investigator suspects Viktor Zimovskiy of organizing meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses, interpreting this as a continuation of the activities of an extremist cell (part 1 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). Also, the defendants in the case are a married couple Anatoly and Irina Gezik.

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    January 17, 2020

    In one of the schools in Georgievsk, security forces interrogate a sixth-grader about Jehovah's Witnesses. The interrogation is also repeated on January 21.

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    January 23, 2020

    The investigator summons Viktor Zimovskiy for questioning and immediately detains him. Zimovsky was sent to the temporary detention center of the department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia in the Georgievsk urban district.

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    January 24, 2020

    Georgievsk City Court arrests Viktor Zimovskiy for 1 month and 6 days. The defense does not agree with the decision.

    It turns out that the accusation of extremism is based on video footage that was secretly held in one of the apartments while believers jointly discussed the Bible, sang songs and prayed.

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    February 26, 2020

    The session of the Georgievsk City Court, chaired by Nina Anashkina, begins two hours late. Only a few people from about 150 friends, acquaintances and simply caring people are allowed into the meeting room - not only locals, but also those who came to support the believer from Essentuki, Mineralnye Vody, Nezlobnaya, Novopavlovsk, Makhachkala and Voronezh.

    Viktor's defense accuses the investigator of unreasonably delaying the response to the request for a medical examination and of improper performance of duties in general. So, witnesses in the case have not yet been questioned.

    The investigator is requesting an extension of Viktor Zimovskiy's detention, arguing that he may abscond. As a confirmation, he provides a certain "operative's report", which does not have the necessary stamps proving the authenticity of the document.

    Judge Anashkina grants the investigator's request and leaves the believer in the pre-trial detention center until March 30. Earlier, the same judge took Zimovsky into custody. The lawyers petitioned for the recusal of Anashkina, but the petition was rejected.

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    March 23, 2020

    After exactly two months of detention in the pre-trial detention center, Viktor Zimovskiy will be able to go home - this decision is made by the appellate court. The criminal prosecution of Viktor does not stop, now he will be under house arrest.

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    May 6, 2020

    After a month and a half of house arrest, the investigator changed the measure of restraint to Viktor Zimovsky on his own recognizance. The believer hopes that now he will be able to work, fully take care of his family, see off and meet his wife with her newborn daughter from the hospital.

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    October 6, 2021

    Ostya A.M., Senior Investigator of the Georgievsk Investigation Department of the Stavropol Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, informs Viktor Zimovskiy that the preventive measure chosen against him in the form of a recognizance not to leave and proper behavior is canceled due to the suspension of the preliminary investigation on May 7, 2021.

    The believer spent almost a year and a half under recognizance not to leave.

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    February 15, 2022

    The criminal case is submitted for consideration to the Georgievsk City Court of the Stavropol Territory. It is appointed to Judge Nina Anashkina.

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    March 29, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    About 30 people gather outside the courthouse to support the believers. Since the hearing is held behind closed doors, they are not allowed into the courtroom. Viktor Zimovskiy speaks with his attitude to the accusation.

    The prosecutor summons for questioning a woman who considers herself a victim. When the defense begins to ask questions, the interrogation is interrupted, and the hearing is postponed to April 14.

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    April 14, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    About 40 people come to the courthouse to support the believers.

    The interrogation of Lyubov Gezik continues. Basically, she talks about what happened at worship meetings and mentions the basic teachings of the Holy Scriptures.

    Judge Nina Anashkina asks the victim whether Viktor Zimovsky called for the overthrow of the country's constitutional order, illegal actions, the breakdown of family relations, whether he spoke about the superiority of his religion over others. The woman answers all questions in the negative. Then the judge asks what extremist actions the defendant called for, Lyubov explains that Viktor said that, according to the Bible, Christians should not transfuse donated blood and take up arms. The judge again asks the victim the question: "What is extremism here?"

    The defense expresses bewilderment at the charges brought against the believers.

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

    At a closed hearing, the prosecution witness, Anna Manakova, the daughter of Anatoly Gezik, is being interrogated. She expresses personal grievances to her parents. The prosecutor and the judge do not give the lawyer the opportunity to question Anna. One gets the impression that the court is clarifying family relations.

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

    A witness, the teacher of Anatoly Gezik's youngest daughter, Lyubov Gezik, is being questioned at a closed hearing. The prosecutor asks the teacher questions about the defendant's family. The witness gives a positive assessment to Anatoliy and Irina Gezik.

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    June 8, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Prosecution witnesses do not appear in the courtroom.

    The judge gets acquainted with the materials of the case. The prosecutor draws the judge's attention to what was seized during the searches, as well as to the results of the examination. The lawyer notes that the experts who made the conclusion do not have a religious education and scientific papers.

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    August 1, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Prosecution witness Andrey Kuznetsov is being questioned via videoconference due to his illness at the hearing. During his testimony, it turns out that he has mental disorders, and behind the scenes someone tells him the answers to the questions of the judge and the prosecutor. When asked whether the witness knew the defendants, he answered in the negative. The prosecution witness cannot answer the lawyer's questions. The lawyer states that the testimony of a mentally ill person cannot be attached to the case, but the judge still accepts it.

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    August 17, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Interrogation of defense witnesses. 5 listeners were admitted to the courtroom. One of the witnesses, who does not share the convictions of the defendants, speaks positively about their religion. She says: "If a person has quit smoking, abused alcohol, gained meaning in life, has a wonderful family, children, hardworking, then he has a good religion."

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    September 8, 2022

    Due to covid restrictions, listeners are not allowed into the courtroom. At the hearing, the interrogation of five defense witnesses continues, including Zimovski's wife, who gives her husband a positive characterization.

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

    3 listeners and 2 witnesses from the defense, who are neighbors of the defendants, are allowed into the courtroom. They give a positive description of believers, talk about their families and personal qualities. According to them, they did not notice any oddities in their behavior.

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    October 26, 2022 Prosecutor requested punishment

    The prosecutor asks Viktor Zimovskiy and Anatoliy Gezik for 5 and 5.5 years in a strict regime colony, respectively, and Irina Gezik for 5.5 years in a general regime colony. Probably, the prosecutor requested a strict regime by mistake, since citizens convicted of a serious crime for the first time must serve their sentences in general regime colonies.

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    November 14, 2022
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    November 17, 2022 Detention center

    It becomes known that after the verdict, Viktor Zimovskiy was taken to pre-trial detention center No. 2 in the city of Pyatigorsk. He can receive letters of support.

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    November 22, 2022

    The lawyer visits Viktor Zimovskiy in the pre-trial detention center. The believer says that he has not yet received letters of support.

    Victor is being held in a 6-bed cell along with 4 prisoners. None of them smoke, which Victor is very happy about. The believer has a Bible. He has all the medicines, takes them as prescribed constantly, so he feels fine.

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    March 1, 2023