The case of Aliyev in Komsomolsk-on-Amur

Case history

Early in May 2020, a detachment of armed law enforcers burst into Nikolai Aliev’s apartment with a search, knocking the believer to the floor. The Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee for the Khabarovsk Territory and the Jewish Autonomous Region opened a criminal case against him under two parts of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The investigator suspected the peaceful citizen of organizing the activities of an extremist organization and being involved in it. The basis for the accusation was hidden video recordings of Aliyev’s conversations with a man who portrayed an interest in the Bible. Since October 2020, the case has been under consideration in court. In June 2021, the court found the believer guilty and sentenced him to 4.5 years of suspended imprisonment with restriction of liberty for 1 year and 2 months. The appellate and cassation instances upheld the verdict.

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    April 30, 2020

    The Investigative Department for the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Khabarovsk Territory and the Jewish Autonomous Region initiates criminal case No. 12002080009000066 on the grounds of a crime under Part 1.1. Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (inducement, recruitment or other involvement of a person in the activities of an extremist organization).

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    May 18, 2020

    Judge of the Leninsky District Court of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Andrei Pronin, grants the investigator's request to search Aliyev's home.

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    May 22, 2020

    Early in the morning, 8 security officials burst through the door of the Aliyevs' apartment, where her 18-year-old brother Vyacheslav lives together with Nikolai and his wife Alesya. Armed riot policemen knock Nikolai to the floor. Investigator Aleksey Evsiugov presents a court order and conducts a search in the presence of 2 witnesses dressed in military uniforms.

    After a 5-hour search, Nikolay, Alesya and Vyacheslav are taken to the Investigation Department for interrogation, where they are tried to exert emotional pressure on them.

    Nikolay Aliyev is presented with hidden video recordings from 2018, in which he talks to a man who portrays an interest in the Bible. Despite threats of arrest for using Article 51 of the Russian Constitution, all three believers are allowed to go home in the evening.

    A measure of restraint is not chosen for any of them.

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    May 26, 2020

    Linguoexpert Rozhdestvina E.A. in her conclusion notes that in the videos presented to Nikolay Aliyev for 2018 there are no calls for specific actions, and the verbal constructions used "do not have the character of direct motivation and do not have a categorical form."

    Although religious texts, according to the expert, contain motivations for action, for example, "Your children need you. Tell them about Jehovah", there are no direct appeals in the statements of the participants in the communication. In conclusion, Rozhdestvina notes: "Through the use of constructions with the meaning of advice, the desirability, possibility, and not the need for a specific action are emphasized."

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    May 28, 2020
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    October 29, 2020

    Hearings on the merits of the criminal case begin. 20 people come to the building of the Central District Court of Komsomolsk-on-Amur to support Nikolai Aliyev, but due to COVID-19, students do not enter the building.

    Judge Natalia Gurkova rejects the motion to waive the public defender, as well as the request for access of listeners to court hearings due to the epidemiological situation.

    The prosecutor reads out the charges. The believer does not admit his guilt, emphasizing that he is being tried for professing peaceful religious beliefs. He emphasizes that he never headed or was a member of a legal entity that was prohibited by a court decision. According to him, "the investigator and the state prosecutor misunderstand the decision of the Supreme Court of April 20, 2017, on which they base their accusation."

    "The Supreme Court, by its decision, banned the activities of specific legal organizations, but did not prohibit or restrict the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. This is evident from the response of the Government of the Russian Federation to the complaint lodged with the European Court of Human Rights by Jehovah's Witnesses. In paragraph 91, the government of the Russian Federation indicated that neither the decision of the Supreme Court of April 20, 2017, nor the decision of the Appellate Board of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of July 17, 2017 "do not assess the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses, do not contain a restriction or prohibition to practice the above teachings individually," Aliyev said in court.

    The court is questioning three prosecution witnesses.

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    November 25, 2020

    The Court grants the defense's request to admit the decision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on Russia's failure to comply with the European Court's ruling on Jehovah's Witnesses complaints.

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    January 15, 2021

    Interrogation of prosecution witness Vladimir Tyomny, who communicated with Nikolai Aliyev, pretending to be interested in the Bible. He is asked, "How was the Bible study? How was Aliyev contacted? How did you arrange the meeting?"

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    March 19, 2021

    The testimony of the defendant given during the preliminary investigation shall be read out in court. Nikolay refuses to answer additional questions from the prosecutor and the judge, referring to the fact that he has already given all the necessary answers at this stage, including in writing.

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    March 23, 2021 Prosecutor requested punishment

    The prosecution is requesting 6 years of imprisonment in a general regime colony and 2 years of restriction of freedom for Nikolay Aliyev.

    On March 25, 2021 at 4:00 p.m., the court will give the floor to the defense and the defendant.

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    March 24, 2021
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    March 25, 2021 Prosecutor requested punishment

    The appearance of the defense and the defendant in court is postponed. The judge, at the request of the prosecutor, resumes the judicial investigation for the questioning of the expert religious scholar. The next meeting is scheduled for May 20, 2021.

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    June 3, 2021 Prosecutor requested punishment

    Since after the beginning of the debate the proceedings were returned to the stage of judicial investigation (interrogation of the expert), the prosecutor again speaks in the debate and asks the court to sentence Nikolay Aliyev to 6 years of imprisonment in a penal colony, as well as 2 years and 11 months of restriction of freedom.

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    June 4, 2021 First Instance Sentence

    Judge of the Central District Court of Komsomolsk-on-Amur Natalia Gurkova finds the believer guilty and sentences him to 4 years and 6 months of suspended imprisonment with restriction of liberty for 1 year and 2 months.

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    September 2, 2021 Court of Appeal

    The Khabarovsk Regional Court, having considered Nikolai Aliyev's appeal against the verdict, left it unchanged. The sentence of 4.5 years of imprisonment comes into force conditionally. The believer is still at large.

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    January 24, 2022

    A hearing is being held in the Ninth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction. The verdict and the appellate ruling against Nikolay Aliyev remain unchanged: 4 years and 6 months of suspended imprisonment, with restriction of freedom for a period of 1 year and 2 months.