Sannikov's case in Kazan

Case History

In August 2020, the FSB of Tatarstan opened a criminal case against Konstantin Sannikov, a forensic doctor and father of 4 children. Conversations about the Bible with friends were considered to be the organization of the activities of an extremist organization. The believer was placed in a pre-trial detention center, and his bank accounts were blocked. He was allowed to see his wife and daughters only after 2 years. The case went to court in August 2021. The testimonies of the secret witnesses were untrue and indicated a personal dislike of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Despite this, in February 2023, the court sentenced Sannikov to 6.5 years in prison. The appellate court agreed with this decision in June of the same year, excluding additional restrictions from the verdict. The prosecutor appealed this decision, and the cassation sent the case back for a second appeal, which in December 2023 confirmed the believer’s original sentence. During the time spent in prison, his chronic diseases worsened.

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    August 25, 2020

    Senior investigator-forensic specialist of the CO of the FSB of Russia in the Republic of Tatarstan, Major of Justice T. R. Minnekhanov initiates a criminal case against the forensic doctor Konstantin Sannikov, the father of a minor child. He is accused of committing a crime under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

    The investigator interprets the discussion of biblical passages in Sannikov's home as "illegal religious meetings ... in order to induce [the audience] to a hostile perception of people identified on the basis of religious affiliation, as well as to justify the need to carry out aggressive, violent, cruel actions directed against a person in connection with his religious affiliation."

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    August 27, 2020

    Konstantin Sannikov was detained and sent to pre-trial detention center No. 1 in the Republic of Tatarstan.

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    May 26, 2021

    Konstantin appeals to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Tatarstan against the refusal of the Vakhitovsky District Court of Kazan to grant him visits with his wife. For 9 months, investigator Minnekhanov 6 times refuses a believer to meet with his wife Irina.

    Sannikov draws the court's attention to the fact that the investigator's refusals, as well as the decision of the Vakhitovsky District Court, are a violation of the Federal Law "On the Detention of Suspects and Accused of Committing Crimes". The believer points out: "I consider this inhuman and degrading treatment."

    There are 12 people in a stuffy cell with 8 beds. Despite the difficulties, Konstantin maintains a positive attitude. He is grateful for the support and care of his wife and fellow believers who write letters to him.

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    August 20, 2021 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Konstantin Sannikov speaks with an attitude to the accusation. He says: "The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, as well as the Government of the Russian Federation, publicly declare that citizens in Russia have the right to continue to practice the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. Therefore, it is not completely clear to me on what basis the investigating authorities and the prosecutor in the city of Kazan accuse me of extremism. The only explanation that I find is that the investigating authorities inappropriately freely interpret the decision of the Supreme Court of 20.04.2017.

    The believer continues: "As one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I have never incited religious discord, propaganda of exclusivity, superiority of a person on the basis of his religious affiliation, much less have I ever acted out of extremist motives ... My religion, or belief in God, is based on love. Love for God and for people... It follows from the charges that I face imprisonment just because I exercised the right to practice my religion."

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    October 4, 2021

    The lawyer visits Konstantin Sannikov in the pre-trial detention center. In connection with the renovation in the cell, the believer was temporarily transferred to a room on the 1st floor, which is very cold.

    Konstantin suffered a cold, and also 2-3 times a month he experiences bouts of abdominal pain that last for several hours.

    The believer is still denied visits from his wife, citing the assumption that she can be summoned to court as a witness in the case.

    Konstantin regularly receives letters, he has a Bible. He has good relations with his cellmates and the staff of the pre-trial detention center. Employees are surprised to note how many letters from all over the world he receives.

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    November 8, 2021

    20 people come to the court hearing to support Konstantin Sannikov. The judge refuses to satisfy the defense's request to admit listeners to the hearing or to organize an online broadcast of the hearing. He also rejects the request that the defendant be allowed to leave the cage for the duration of the current trial.

    Sannikov's preventive measure is extended until February 9, 2022.

    Two prosecution witnesses are being questioned. FSB officer Shakirov explains to the court that he performed his official duties, he cannot provide details on the case under consideration.

    Konstantin Kovalerov, who personally communicated with the defendant on biblical topics, emphasizes that all the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses are based on the Bible.

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    November 10, 2021

    The lawyer visits Sannikov in the pre-trial detention center. He complains of pain and aggravated illness. He needs special nutrition. Family and friends send him packages of diet products, but none of the three packages reach him. He has no conflicts with his cellmates and employees of the pre-trial detention center. Sannikov is still prevented from seeing his wife and receives fewer letters than before. However, he does not lose his presence of mind, in which he is helped by reading the Bible. He conveys many kind words to family and friends.

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    December 24, 2021

    The lawyer visits Konstantin Sannikov in SIZO-1 in the Republic of Tatarstan. The believer feels satisfied. He was forced to seek medical help to confirm the diagnosis, but the results of the examination are not given to him.

    Some time ago, Konstantin was transferred to another cell. The conditions there are worse, since there are 12 prisoners for 8 beds. They show respect for the believer and give him the opportunity to get enough sleep: he sleeps at night, and gives up his place during the day. Now walks take place in the courtyard, where there is sports equipment, which allows Konstantin to do physical exercises.

    The believer has a copy of the Bible. He also reports that he now receives almost all the products and letters that his family and friends give him. However, he never received permission to visit his wife and telephone conversations.

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

    About 20 people gather outside the courthouse to support the believer.

    The prosecution witness, who acted as a witness during the search, is being questioned. The protocol of the interrogation of the second witness is also announced. Their testimonies are identical, stating that the items were "forcibly seized"; "medical literature that was relevant to the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses" was found. In this regard, the defense is perplexed as to what explains the "identity of the testimony in whole paragraphs."

    Konstantin Sannikov declares the perjury of witnesses and explains: "I am a Jehovah's Witness, I serve Jehovah God, I have never hidden it, I always keep the Bible at home. During the search, I did not oppose, as I am a law-abiding person."

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    February 16, 2022

    The lawyer visits Konstantin in SIZO-1 in Kazan. The believer feels better, he is kept in an 8-bed cell with 9 prisoners, so he does not have his own permanent bed yet.

    In connection with the state of health of Sannikov, the lawyer submits an application addressed to the head of the pre-trial detention center for an examination and consultation with a doctor, as well as for the transfer of the believer to a special diet.

    Sannikov has his own copy of the Bible and regularly receives letters of support.

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

    About 10 people gather outside the courthouse to support the believer, but no one is allowed to attend the hearing.

    A prosecution witness who attended worship services from 1999 to 2020 is being questioned. In his testimony, he says that Jehovah's Witnesses are "good people, better fathers, heads of families, the use of the word 'extremism' in relation to Jehovah's Witnesses is unthinkable, they are peaceful people." He also affirms that the New World Translation is one of the translations of the Bible and that there is "a peaceful, kind atmosphere" at the services.

    The defense manages to find out that the wording that was used in the testimony of the witness was drawn up by the investigator.

    The court rejects the defense's request for a medical examination of the defendant.

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    March 16, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    A witness who was present during the search of Konstantin Sannikov's home is summoned for interrogation. Previously, her testimony had already been read out in court, however, the prosecutor considered it necessary to interrogate her in court. From the testimony of the witness, it becomes obvious that Sannikov did not resist the operatives.

    The lawyer again draws the court's attention to the identity of the testimony of the two witnesses. However, the woman claims that she testified on her own.

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

    Only Sannikov's relatives gather outside the courthouse due to the fact that earlier court employees expressed dissatisfaction with the support group and threatened to call the police.

    A secret witness under the pseudonym "Alexander Kamzolov" is being interrogated. The defense repeatedly states that they know the real name of the witness and that he is an FSB officer who was infiltrated under the guise of a person interested in the Bible. In August 2020, he was baptized as one of Jehovah's Witnesses.

    The court does not satisfy the request to conduct the interrogation of "Kamzolov" in the usual manner.

    The witness reduces the answers to the questions of the defense to the phrase: "Sannikov said that we continue the activities of a banned legal entity." Judge Marat Khaertdinov draws attention to the fact that the witness does not answer on the merits and is clearly trying to incriminate the defendant.

    Answering the question of Konstantin Sannikov, the witness addresses him as "you" and does not hide his hostility to the defendant.

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    April 5, 2022

    The lawyer visits Konstantin Sannikov in SIZO-1 in Kazan. The believer reports serious health problems.

    He is being held in a cell with 8 inmates, now he has his permanent place and the ability to respond to letters of support. Konstantin has good relations with his cellmates and the administration of the pre-trial detention center.

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

    Due to the fact that the secret witness "Murat Tadzhiev" does not appear in court, the prosecutor begins to announce the case materials. She reads out the reports "on the discovery of a crime" in Sannikov's actions. At the request of the lawyer, a positive reference from the defendant's place of work is announced.

    Sannikov claims that "Alexander Kamzolov", who was interrogated earlier, gave false testimony.

    The court extends the measure of restraint for the believer in the form of detention in a pre-trial detention center until August 9, 2022.

    Judge Marat Khaertdinov refuses to satisfy Konstantin Sannikov's petitions for a meeting with his wife and for the removal of the blocking from bank accounts.

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    May 4, 2022

    The lawyer visits Konstantin Sannikov in SIZO-1 in Kazan. His state of health is satisfactory, there are no complaints.

    Konstantin is kept in an 8-bed cell with 11 prisoners, he has his own bed. The believer has developed good relations with his cellmates.

    The believer has a Bible. He notes that letters began to arrive in smaller numbers.

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

    To support the believer, 40 people come to the courthouse.

    A secret witness under the pseudonym Tajiev Murat, who did not appear at the meeting for a long time, is being interrogated. He confuses the concepts of a legal entity and religion itself.

    The defense file a motion to include the interrogation of the secret witness Shigapov in the case of A. Bochkarev, where Murat Tadzhiev gives the same testimony word for word. The lawyer also petitions to summon investigators for questioning and to attach the protocol to the case. The court refuses to do so, but leaves the petition in the case.

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    July 18, 2022

    The lawyer visits Konstantin Sannikov in the pre-trial detention center. According to the defender, Konstantin's emotional state is good, but he has some problems with his physical health. In addition, he misses his family, whom he has not seen since his arrest, as he is not allowed visits and phone calls.

    Over the past couple of months, the conditions of detention in the pre-trial detention center have become worse. The cells are overcrowded: they are designed for 8 people, but sometimes they contain up to 15 people. Konstantin does not have his own bed. Due to health problems, he also has difficulty eating.

    The believer is not discouraged, because he has the opportunity to read the Bible, and his friends also support him.

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    July 28, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Relatives and fellow believers are allowed to attend the court hearing. For the first time in 2 years, Konstantin sees his wife and daughters.

    The prosecutor reads out the written materials of the case.

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

    The results of phonoscopic and psycho-linguistic examination are announced. The judge twice rejected the defense's request to interrogate the witness who came, Tadzhiev's mother.

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

    The judge extends Sannikov's preventive measure until November 9, 2022.

    The believer explains in detail to the court his position on the criminal case. He talks about his Bible-based beliefs.

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    August 17–18, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    There are 25 people in the hall who came to support the defendant.

    The lawyer applies for the provision of material evidence in further court hearings. The prosecutor objects, arguing that this would delay the process. The judge promises to make his decision on this issue later.

    The court begins to listen to an audio recording of one of the services, but the lawyer petitions to postpone the listening until October. The court postpones it until 19.09.2022.

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

    In the courtroom there are about 20 co-religionists of Constantine, who came to support him.

    A part of the audio recording of the worship service with a biblical speech on peacefulness is listened to. It emphasizes that Jehovah's Witnesses seek peace with all people, regardless of their religion or other characteristics.

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    October 18–19, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    There are 15 listeners present at the hearing.

    Listening to the audio recording of the biblical speech on peacefulness continues. The lawyer quotes specific phrases from the audio recording that indicate the motives for holding worship services, namely the encouragement to love peace and respect for people of other nationalities and religions.

    The lawyer also requests that the defense be provided with material evidence for familiarization with it. The prosecutor objects, but the judge satisfies him.

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    November 15, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    To support the believer, 40 people come to the hearing.

    The prosecutor continues to review the material evidence. The defense draws attention to the dates of publication of publications and notes that the listed items are not related to the sane period.

    One of the witnesses in her testimony reports that a certain "Tadzhiev" - a secret representative of the prosecution - is her close relative. According to her, he has not lived in Kazan since 2016 and could not have known about Sannikov's religious life, and he also has a personal dislike for Jehovah's Witnesses.

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

    The court is considering the issue of a measure of restraint for the defendant. The lawyer draws the court's attention to the appeal and Sannikov's characteristic, his professional experience, awards and commendations, reads out the opinion of international organizations.

    Expressing his attitude to the charges, Konstantin Sannikov emphasizes that, as a Christian, Jehovah's Witness, he exercised his constitutional rights, and his religious activities have nothing to do with the activities of the liquidated legal entity.

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    November 21, 2022

    The lawyer notes that Konstantin Sannikov has a positive attitude in the pre-trial detention center, he has learned to "take control" of chronic diseases. His family was also able to negotiate with the management of the pre-trial detention center about the necessary treatment.

    Konstantin is kept in an eight-bed cell with 8 more prisoners, but he has his own place. His cellmates treat him with respect, and Konstantin also has good relations with the administration. He has a Bible. He has not yet received e-mails, since the censor has been on sick leave for more than 10 days.

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    December 6, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    More than 40 people come to the courtroom to support Konstantin.

    Witnesses for the defense, the defendant's daughter and his supervisor, are being questioned.

    Daughter Margarita gives her father a positive characterization and tells how much she was helped by the knowledge from the Bible that he instilled in her: how to love God and his commandments, do good to others, obey the authorities and observe the laws.

    Konstantin's manager also speaks of him as a responsible and honest employee. The witness confirms that the believer was never subjected to punishment, on the contrary, Constantine repeatedly received gratitude, encouragement and rewards.

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    February 15, 2023
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    June 6, 2023
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    September 6, 2023 Life in prison Letters

    Konstantin Sannikov is serving his sentence in correctional colony No. 8 in Almetyevsk. He is being held in a 26-bed barracks. Relations with the administration of the colony and with inmates are good.

    Soon after admission, Konstantin's chronic illness sharply worsened, an ambulance was called for him. Food in the colony is scarce, while the believer has difficulty buying additional products in the colony's store.

    Despite his health problems, Konstantin works in a sewing workshop, where he has to work from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and do a lot of work. The believer is not given a letter, and his Bible has not yet been returned to him.

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    October 17, 2023 Court of Cassation Life in prison

    At the request of the prosecutor, the Sixth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction in Samara cancels the decision of the appellate instance, which previously excluded from the sentence the additional punishment imposed on Konstantin Sannikov. The case is being sent for a new appeal.

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    December 3, 2023 Detention center Life in prison

    In anticipation of a second appeal, Sannikov is temporarily in SIZO-1 in the city of Kazan. There are 9 more people in the 8-bed cell with him, but he has his own bed. The believer has a good relationship with everyone.

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    December 8, 2023 Court of Cassation Second appeal Detention center Life in prison Art. 282.2 (1) Art. 282.3 (1)

    The Supreme Court of the Republic of Tatarstan, having considered the case of Sannikov in a new composition, leaves the original verdict of the first instance unchanged, in particular, returns an additional punishment in the form of restriction of liberty for a period of 1 year.

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    March 3, 2024 Life in prison

    Konstantin Sannikov works in a boiler room. He works there with pleasure and notes that this way the time of imprisonment flies by faster. The believer has good relations with other prisoners and the administration of the colony.

    Sannikov's relatives regularly visit him. Konstantin receives letters of support. He also has a Bible.