The case of Serebryakov and Temirbulatov in Moscow

Case History

Since 2019, believers in Moscow have been under surveillance. In February 2021, officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the FSB and the National Guard broke into 16 apartments of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Moscow and the Moscow Region. Some reported beatings and money going missing during the search. Alexandr Serebryakov and Yuriy Temirbulatov were put in detention, although Alexandr was taking care of his elderly disabled mother, and Yuriy, the father of three children, suffers from various illnesses and has a dependent mother-in-law who is disabled. While behind bars, Alexandr was seriously ill with COVID-19, and Yuriy underwent a serious operation (he had developed an oncological disease). The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation considered the reading of the Bible and the singing of religious songs as organizing the activity of an extremist organization. The case went to court in January 2022. In August 2022, the believers were given a 6 year suspended sentence, and in November 2022, the Appeal Court upheld this sentence.

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    February 10, 2021

    Maria Rasskazova, an investigator of the Department for Investigation of Particularly Important Cases of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee for the City of Moscow, initiates criminal case No. 12102450011000009 under Part 1 and Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation against unidentified persons.

    Early in the morning, representatives of law enforcement agencies gather with witnesses at several residential buildings in Khovrino and the Levoberezhny district of Moscow, Khimki and Chekhov. Their goal is the families of Jehovah's Witnesses. The first reports of the invasion of the apartments come from believers at 06:20. At the end of the day, it becomes known about at least 14 searches of believers. Some are taken away for interrogations. Yuriy Temirbulatov and Aleksandr Serebryakov were detained and placed in a temporary detention facility.

    TV channels broadcast footage of the invasion of believers by security forces dressed in helmets and body armor and armed with machine guns. The believers who have been lifted out of bed lie on the floor with their hands behind their heads. One of them is taken away with handcuffs fastened behind his back. During one of the searches, the security forces beat two men, although they did not offer any resistance. After that, their hands are tied with plastic mounting clamps. When one of the believers is pushed onto the bed, the tie breaks. For this, his hands are tightened with three more clamps. The men are in this position while the search is underway. At the end of the search, the family notices that a large amount of personal savings has been stolen from them.

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    February 11, 2021 Search
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    February 12, 2021

    Judge of the Savelovsky District Court of Moscow Dmitry Zozulya elects Alexander Serebryakov and Yuri Temirbulatov a measure of restraint in the form of detention for a period of 2 months. The men are in the Detention Center No. 7 of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia in Moscow (57 Verkhnie Polya St., Moscow, 109382).

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    February 15, 2021
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    February 27, 2021

    Aleksandr Serebryakov and Yuriy Temirbulatov are transferred to pre-trial detention center No. 5.

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    May 25, 2021

    The lawyer visits Aleksandr Serebryakov at the place of detention. The believer reports that after a serious illness he is on the mend, the administration of the pre-trial detention center provides medicines prescribed by doctors. Aleksandr says that he is being held in a "special unit", in a cell with 14 other prisoners. During his arrest, he received more than 2,000 letters with words of support in the pre-trial detention center.

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    June 10, 2021

    Alexander Serebryakov is again visited by a lawyer in the pre-trial detention center. The believer is kept in a "special unit". Currently, there are 13 people in the cell out of 14 possible. Alexander has a good relationship with his cellmates. He feels much better, the consequences of the disease are almost gone. He has difficulty getting books.

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    June 25, 2021

    It becomes known that Aleksandr Serebryakov is being transferred to a cell where prisoners who support the criminal subculture and who have previously served their sentences are kept. This contradicts Article 33 of the Federal Law of the Russian Federation "On the Detention of Suspects and Accused of Committing Crimes". It states that "persons who are being prosecuted for the first time and those who have previously been held in places of deprivation of liberty must be held separately".

    There are 11 people in the 10-bed cell, mostly smokers. After suffering a viral disease, it is difficult for Alexander to be in such conditions.

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    September 6, 2021

    The Moscow City Court upholds the decision of the Savelovsky District Court of Moscow to extend the measure of restraint for Yuri Temirbulatov and Alexander Serebryakov. The period of detention has been increased from 6 to 9 months.

    The court ignores the cancer diagnosed in Temirbulatov, as well as violations of the law committed during the election of a preventive measure and its extension.

    Yuriy Temirbulatov suffers from pain and needs urgent treatment in a specialized oncological treatment and prevention center. In view of this, the lawyer files an appeal with the Judicial Collegium for Criminal Cases of the Moscow City Court against the decision to extend the detention of the believer in the pre-trial detention center and demands that it be canceled. The defense presents to the court the opinion of an experienced forensic expert, according to which Temirbulatov's numerous illnesses prevent him from being in the pre-trial detention center.

    According to the lawyer, the detention of the believer was illegal from the very beginning. The investigation did not have any of the grounds provided for in Article 91 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation for Yuriy's detention: there were no victims; the believer did not try to hide; He lived at the address of his permanent residence.

    The lawyer points out the violations committed. For example, she draws attention to the fact that, given the composition of the investigation team, all investigative actions could have been completed within the first 6 months while Temirbulatov was in custody. In addition, the Code of Criminal Procedure allows for the extension of the period of detention for more than 6 months "only in cases of particular complexity of the criminal case." That is, the matter should be not just "difficult", but "especially difficult". In the present case, this is not the case.

    Instead of taking into account the serious state of health of the defendant, as well as other mitigating circumstances, the court takes into account the investigator's arguments about the gravity of the crime and the alleged possible escape of the suspect. Also, the investigator interpreted Temirbulatov's refusal to admit his guilt as "an active position of opposition to the investigation." However, the specific, factual evidence required for detention is not specified in the judge's decision. And the gravity of the crime alone cannot be the only and sufficient basis for this.

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    October 28, 2021

    Yuriy Temirbulatov is receiving urgent treatment at the Moscow City Oncology Hospital No. 62 (Istra). He is successfully undergoing surgery to remove the tumor. His state of health is assessed as satisfactory.

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    November 3, 2021

    Judge of the Savyolovsky District Court of Moscow, Olga Chistova, extends the period of detention of Aleksandr Serebryakov for another 3 months. The believer will remain in jail until at least February 10, 2022. The lawyer had the impression that the decision to extend the period of detention of the believer had been made in advance and the judge was trying to complete the hearing as soon as possible. The judge does not give Serebryakov the opportunity to familiarize himself with the case materials. The only evidence of his "guilt" is the recording of the service, which was secretly made by law enforcement officers in August 2019.

    Russian human rights activist and public figure Andrey Babushkin sends a personal guarantee about Yuri Temirbulatov to the Savyolovsky District Court. He asks the court to commute the measure of restraint for the believer, since he recently underwent a serious surgical operation.

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    November 4, 2021

    Yuriy Temirbulatov was discharged from the hospital and transferred to the Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial detention center.

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    November 8, 2021

    The court extends Temirbulatov's detention for another 3 months.

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    November 25, 2021

    It becomes known that Yuri Temirbulatov was again transferred to the pre-trial detention center No. 5 Vodnik on Vyborgskaya Street in Moscow.

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    December 22, 2021

    Alexander Serebryakov and Yuriy Temirbulatov are transferred from pre-trial detention center No. 5 of the Federal Penitentiary Service in Moscow to the Voykovsky temporary detention facility of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia in the Northern Administrative District of Moscow. It is not known how long they will stay there and whether letters will reach them.

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    December 30, 2021

    It becomes known that Aleksandr Serebryakov and Yuriy Temirbulatov are being placed in pre-trial detention center No. 5 Vodnik for the third time.

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    February 7, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    A preliminary hearing is being held in the Golovinsky District Court of Moscow.

    Judge Sergey Bazarov extends the period of detention of believers for another six months, until July 26, 2022.

    The court, instead of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, considers and rejects the petition of the defenders to transfer the criminal case from the Golovinsky District Court of Moscow to another court. The petition is motivated by the presence of circumstances that may cast doubt on the objectivity and impartiality of the court in making a decision on the case. In addition, the court refuses to return the criminal case to the prosecutor, and also postpones the issue of inadmissibility of evidence obtained in violation of the law.

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    March 7, 2022

    It becomes known that Yuri Temirbulatov has again been transferred to SIZO-1 in Moscow, known as "Matrosskaya Tishina". He can write letters.

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    April 4, 2022

    Yuriy Temirbulatov is returned to the Vodnik pre-trial detention center No. 5 on Vyborgskaya Street in Moscow.

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    July 29, 2022 Prosecutor requested punishment

    The debate on the case of Yuri Temirbulatov and Alexander Serebryakov begins. The prosecutor requests six and a half years of imprisonment for believers in a general regime colony.

    The defendants' statements with the last word are postponed to August 3. Perhaps on this day the verdict will be announced.

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    August 3, 2022 Prosecutor requested punishment Final statement First Instance Sentence

    Speaking with the last word, Serebryakov and Temirbulatov do not admit guilt in the alleged crimes.

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    August 8, 2022 First Instance Sentence
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    November 21, 2022 Court of Appeal

    The Moscow City Court rejects the complaints of the accused and defense counsel. The prosecutor shall withdraw the appeal. The verdict comes into force.