The case of Kalistratov in Gorno-Altaisk

Case History

For the third time, Aleksandr Kalistratov faced criminal prosecution because of his faith. In 2000, for refusing to take up arms, he was arrested and placed in a pre-trial detention center for 21 days. However, he was later acquitted by the court with the right to rehabilitation. In 2010, for his beliefs, Aleksandr again found himself in the dock on charges of extremism. Within 1.5 years, his case was considered twice. As a result, the first conviction of a Jehovah’s Witness was passed under Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. As a result, the believer managed to defend his honest name: the Supreme Court of the Altai Republic found Kalistratov innocent with the right to rehabilitation. But in December 2021, he again became a defendant in a criminal case under the same extremist article. Kalistratov’s house was searched, after which the believer was ordered not to leave the place. In February 2023, the court sentenced Aleksandr to 6.5 years probation. The appellate court and the court of cassation upheld this verdict.

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    December 16, 2021

    Lieutenant Colonel of Justice E. N. Firsov, investigator of the Department for Investigation of Particularly Important Cases of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Altai Republic, initiates a criminal case on the grounds of a crime under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation against 45-year-old Alexander Kalistratov.

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    January 10, 2022

    The judge of the Gorno-Altai City Court of the Altai Republic, A. V. Krivyakov, makes a decision to search the home of Alexander Kalistratov.

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    January 16, 2022 Search

    Authorities are searching Kalistratov's home. Electronic equipment, documents, bank cards and personal records are seized from the believer. At the same time, searches are being conducted at the homes of other believers from Gorno-Altaisk. In total, 5 searches are known.

    After the search, Kalistratov is taken away for interrogation. Investigator Firsov attracts the believer as a defendant in case No. 12102840008000049 and chooses a measure of restraint for him in the form of a written undertaking not to leave and proper behavior.

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    August 8, 2022

    The criminal case against Alexander Kalistratov is submitted to the Gorno-Altai City Court of the Altai Republic.

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    August 15, 2022

    Judge Natalia Sokolova satisfies Kalistratov's petition and makes a decision on the appointment of a preliminary hearing.

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    August 25, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    A group of 31 people comes to support Alexander Kalistratov - as eyewitnesses note, these are beautifully and neatly dressed people of different ages.

    The defendant files a motion to refuse a lawyer. After the accusation has been read, the believer declares that he categorically disagrees with it.

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    September 13, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The hearing is attended by 25 listeners, some of whom traveled about 400 km to support the defendant.

    Two witnesses for the prosecution are being questioned. Prosecutor Yulia Ivanova asks the woman what the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses is. She answers: "The essence of this religion is the study of the Bible, the Word of God, there are advices."

    The prosecutor asks another witness: "Do I understand you correctly that Kalistratov was the leader, elder, commander-in-chief in the Altai Republic?" The man denies and says: "The commander-in-chief is Jesus ... No one forced us to come to worship services, we just had a desire to continue to learn about God and live according to his moral standards."

    During the hearing, significant contradictions were revealed in the testimonies of witnesses recorded by the investigator. One of them explains this by the fact that he signed the protocol without reading, as he was very tired by that time. According to him, he experienced severe stress after the search, during which an FSB officer threatened to shoot the man's dogs.

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

    Two more witnesses are being interrogated - women who are not familiar with Aleksandr Kalistratov.

    When asked by the prosecutor "whether local believers told about the activities of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses," one of the witnesses replies that they talked about God, read the Bible, prayed, and that she had not heard anything bad about them at all.

    The prosecutor reads out the protocols of interrogations, since the testimony of witnesses in court contradicts what the investigator recorded.

    They hear a defense witness who says that she has known Alexander for more than 20 years and has great respect for him. The prosecutor asks the woman who Jehovah is, where it is written that he is God. She replies that "Jehovah is the personal name of God. The whole world already knows that."

    A witness explains the difference between joint worship of believers and participation in the activities of a religious organization. She emphasizes that despite the elimination of the LRO, to worship God or not is the personal right of any person, and no one and nothing can forbid a person to do so.

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    October 12, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    More than 25 people are allowed into the hall, about 15 remain on the street. Some traveled thousands of kilometers to attend the trial.

    Several prosecution witnesses are being questioned. One of them does not speak Russian well. The lawyer emphasizes that the testimony of the witness is questionable: "It's amazing if you speak so badly, how could so much be written from your words."

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    November 9, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Once again, contradictions in the testimony of witnesses are revealed. One of them emphasizes that the investigator added information to the protocol with which she does not agree. In particular, he attributed to Kalistratov the role of the "chief" and the one who "distributed tasks to the speakers."

    Another witness said that the investigator threatened to detain her if she did not sign the protocol. Because of this, she said, her blood pressure rose, and she signed just to leave the investigator's office.

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    November 23, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Deputy Prosecutor Yulia Ivanova reads out the written evidence of the prosecution, in particular, Volume 2 contains information taken from the recordings of conversations between women who were monitored.

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    December 20, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court continues to consider the written evidence of the prosecution - volumes 4 to 7, including search protocols, expert opinions, etc.

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    January 12, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The defense shall present evidence to the court. The written evidence of the defense from volumes 8 and 9 is examined.

    Kalistratov testifies to the court.

    The court declares the judicial investigation completed.

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    January 23, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The debate was adjourned. The judge decides to resume the judicial investigation in order to question the investigator, who denies that he pressured witnesses during the investigation.

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    February 15, 2023 Prosecutor requested punishment Closing arguments for the defense Final statement

    During the debate, the prosecutor asks for a punishment for Aleksandr - 7 years of suspended imprisonment with a probationary period of 5 years. The defense also speaks, after which Kalistratov pronounces his last word.

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    February 17, 2023
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    April 20, 2023
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    October 31, 2023 Court of Cassation Art. 282.2 (1) Suspended sentence