The Case of Parfenovich and Gerashchenko in Krasnogvardeysky

Case History

In September 2022, armed security forces raided the family home of Sergey Parfenovich, father of six children. They searched the believer's house for 6 hours in the presence of his minor daughter and elderly disabled father. After that, Parfenovich was detained and taken to Simferopol for interrogation. He spent 2 days in a temporary detention facility and 1.5 months in a pretrial detention center, and then he was transferred to house arrest. The case was conducted by investigator V.A. Novikov, who also investigated the case of believers from Yalta. He charged Sergey with organizing the activity of an extremist organization. As part of this case, the same charge was brought against Yuriy Gerashchenko in March 2023. In July 2023, the case went to court. At the same time, the believers were placed under a ban on certain actions, but 2 weeks later they were again placed under house arrest. In December 2023, Gerashchenko was again placed under a ban on certain actions. On July 1, 2024, the court gave Sergey and Yuriy a 6-year suspended sentence.

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    September 19, 2022 Case initiated

    Senior Lieutenant of Justice V. A. Novikov, Investigator for Particularly Important Cases of the First Investigation Department of the First Investigation Department of the Department for Investigation of Especially Important Cases of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, initiates a criminal case against Sergey Parfenovich and other unidentified persons on charges of organizing the activities of an extremist organization (part 1 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

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    September 28, 2022
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    September 30, 2022 Detention center

    The Kievsky District Court of Simferopol issues an order to detain Sergey Parfenovich until November 19, 2022. The believer is accused of "committing an intentional grave crime of an extremist nature."

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    November 15, 2022 House arrest

    The court releases Sergey Parfenovich from the pre-trial detention center under house arrest. The believer is released in the courtroom. When choosing a measure of restraint, the court takes into account Sergey's characteristic, as well as the fact that he takes care of his elderly father, a disabled person of group I.

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    March 22, 2023

    Security forces are detaining 43-year-old Yuriy Gerashchenko. He spends three days in the Dzhankoy temporary detention facility in connection with administrative arrest, after which he is taken away for interrogation to the Investigative Committee. One of the employees takes pictures of what is happening on a smartphone, and the other in the car, according to the believer, hits him in the side.

    Gerashchenko's interrogation ends at about 2 a.m., after which he is taken to the Simferopol temporary detention facility. He is charged with Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (organization of the activities of an extremist organization).

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    March 24, 2023 House arrest

    The Kyiv District Court of Simferopol elects Yuriy Gerashchenko a measure of restraint in the form of house arrest for a period of 27 days - until April 18, 2023.

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    July 3, 2023 Case went to court

    The case of Parfenovich and Gerashchenko goes to court and is referred to judge Valentin Shukalsky.

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    July 12, 2023 Prohibition of certain actions

    The defendants are released from house arrest, now they are prohibited from certain actions. Gerashchenko and Parfenovich cannot leave their homes from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., and they are also forbidden to leave the village without the consent of the executive authority and to communicate with witnesses in a criminal case.

    The Krasnogvardeysky District Court imposes restrictions until October 3.

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    July 28, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance House arrest

    A preliminary hearing in the case of Yuriy Gerashchenko and Sergey Parfenovich is underway. The believers file a petition to terminate the criminal case. The judge rejects it.

    State prosecutor L. E. Abselyamova asks the defendants to change the measure of restraint in view of the information received from the FSB that Parfenovich and Gerashchenko allegedly "continue to engage in criminal activities and can threaten witnesses." The defense objects, since this information is not confirmed by anything.

    Judge Valentin Shukalsky sends Gerashchenko and Parfenovich back under house arrest until October 3, 2023. The defense intends to appeal this decision.

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    September 15, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The defense is requesting the admission of Sergey's wife, Marina Parfenovich, as a public defender and the admission of listeners to the courtroom. The prosecutor does not object, the court satisfies all petitions.

    The prosecutor reads out the indictment, after which Parfenovich expresses his attitude to the charges. He pleaded not guilty as he did not commit any criminal acts.

    About 50 people come to the courthouse to support the believers.

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    October 4, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court satisfies the lawyer's request for admission as a public defender of Yuriy Gerashchenko's wife, Irina.

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    October 9, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation

    Interrogation of a prosecution witness. The woman states that she does not know the defendants and cannot tell anything about the circumstances of their case. The prosecutor requests that the written testimony of the witness be read out in court. The defense objected: the judicial interrogation made it obvious that the witness was ignorant, so there is reason to believe that she gave written testimony from someone else's words. However, the court reads out the record of her interrogation.

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    December 20, 2023 Prohibition of certain actions Expert studies with violations

    The court changes the measure of restraint for Yuriy Gerashchenko from house arrest to a ban on certain actions. Sergei Parfenovich's house arrest is extended, he is filing an appeal.

    The 6th and 7th volumes of the case materials are being examined. A disc with an audio recording of the service is listened to. The defense draws the court's attention to the peaceful atmosphere and the absence of calls for extremism. Also, the voice of the defendant Gerashchenko is not heard on the recording.

    When examining the examination from the 7th volume of the case, the defense draws attention to the fact that the examination was started 5 days before notifying the defendants of its appointment, which did not allow them to participate in the selection of an expert institution. The defense also draws attention to the expert's unscientific approach: he refers to incompetent sources from the Internet and forms a negative attitude towards the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, calling it extremist. In addition, the expert assesses the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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    January 22, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation Expert studies with violations

    Vladimir Rogatin, associate professor of the Department of Religious Studies of Kazan Federal University, who performed the examination, which was discussed at the last meeting, is being interrogated. The expert answers many questions of the defense evasively. For example, it cannot explain the difference between a legal entity and a religious group.

    The defense asks how the expert determined that the record of worship provided to him was a meeting of a liquidated legal entity. He replies that he was guided by "personal conviction." Rohatyn adds that the worship services of believers are similar to those that were held before the liquidation of legal entities, which means that this is a continuation of the activities of the banned organization.

    Public defender Marina Parfenovich draws the court's attention to the fact that the expert, in fact, relied in his conclusions only on the testimony of a secret witness Ivanov Ivan Ivanovich, who is neither a religious scholar nor an expert.

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    February 8, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance Secret witness Expert studies with violations

    The defense filed a motion to exclude the examination of Vladimir Rohatin from the case file: "The expert starts from the testimony of the imaginary witness Ivanov I.I., assuming that this is a reliable source of information. However, the court has not yet assessed the testimony of this witness for their admissibility and reliability, and therefore the testimony and conclusions of the expert in this part cannot be recognized as admissible and proper.

    The defense also draws attention to significant contradictions between Ivanov's written and oral testimony. For example, during interrogation by the investigator, Ivanov allegedly gave the full name and address of residence of each founder of the LRO "Jehovah's Witnesses of the village. Krasnogvardeyskoye", but in court he could not name any of them at least by name. In addition, in court, Ivanov stated that he was not familiar with the charter of the LRO and could not explain what the abbreviation "LRO" meant, whereas in the interrogation protocol he freely operated with this and other specific terms from the text of the charter.

    The court satisfies the defense's petition to exclude the examination from the case file and appoints a re-examination.

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    March 28, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance House arrest Expert conclusions

    The court extends the measure of restraint to Sergey Parfenovich - he has been under house arrest for more than 500 days.

    A new examination is announced. The defense is given time to familiarize itself with it until April 18.

    Documents from the case materials are examined: Parfenovich's diplomas, characteristics from the deputy and neighbors, certificates of care for a disabled person of group I (the father of the believer) and the presence of six children in Sergey.

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    April 4, 2024 Court of Appeal House arrest

    The Supreme Court of the Republic of Crimea rejects Sergey Parfenovich's appeal to extend the term of house arrest and leaves this measure of restraint in force.

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    April 23, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court rejects the defense's request to declare the conclusion of an expert religious scholar inadmissible evidence, but satisfies the request for the examination of material evidence.

    Judge Shukalsky allows Sergey Parfenovich, who is under house arrest, to visit doctors without hindrance for medical examination.

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    April 25, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court examines the material evidence seized from Sergei Parfenovich. Among them are a printed excerpt from the book of the prophet Isaiah, notebooks with personal notes of members of the Parfenovich family and their family photo archive, Bibles in different translations. Sergey Parfenovich declares: "All this only confirms that my family and I are believers, Jehovah's Witnesses. Therefore, I ask the court to recognize these evidence as inadmissible evidence."

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    May 8, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The material evidence seized from Yuriy Gerashchenko is being examined. The defense draws attention to the fact that these materials do not relate to the activities of the LRO, their dates go beyond the scope of the charge, and some of them do not belong to the defendant.

    The court does not satisfy the petition of Parfenovich's defense to exclude material evidence from the case.

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    June 20, 2024 Prosecutor requested punishment Closing arguments for the defense

    The meeting room is overcrowded. Among the 19 people who came for support, there are 6 children of Sergei Parfenovich, as well as the couple of the older children and the wives of the defendants.

    The closing arguments are taking place. The defense repeatedly reminds that the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses is not prohibited in Russia.

    The prosecutor asks to appoint Sergey Parfenovich and Yuriy Gerashchenko to 7 years in prison.

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    June 26, 2024 Final statement In the courtroom

    The defendants make their final statements, emphasizing the inconsistency of the accusation against them.

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    July 1, 2024 Art. 282.2 (1) First Instance Sentence Deprivation of liberty Suspended sentence