Case of Zavrazhnov in Nizhniy Novgorod

Case History

In July 2019, the Russian Interior Ministry for the Nizhny Novgorod Region conducted searches in a total of 35 homes of local Jehovah’s Witnesses. Several criminal cases were initiated, one of them against Maksim Zavrazhnov, a resident of Nizhny Novgorod. The believer was accused of “conducting meetings, collecting donations for the needs of a religious organization and improving the skills of missionary activity.” For seven months, Zavrazhnov was under a ban on certain actions, and in February 2020 he was placed under a recognizance agreement. In October 2021, the case was submitted to the district court. During the hearings, some witnesses stated that the protocols they signed contained information that they did not disclose. The prosecutor requested 5 years in a penal colony for the believer, but the court gave him a 6 year suspended sentence. In December 2022, an appeal upheld this decision.

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    June 4, 2019

    Oleg Makerov, senior investigator for internal affairs, decides to initiate criminal cases against unidentified persons, "in whose act there are signs of a crime under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation," referring to the results of an inspection conducted by employees of the Center for Countering Extremism in the Nizhny Novgorod Region.

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    July 17, 2019 Search

    Maksim Zavrazhnov was charged under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (organization of extremist activity), the believer was detained and interrogated.

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    July 18, 2019

    The Nizhny Novgorod District Court of Nizhny Novgorod chooses a measure of restraint for Zavrazhnov in the form of a ban on certain actions with certain restrictions.

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    September 16, 2019

    The Moskovsky District Court of Nizhny Novgorod extends Zavrazhnov's ban on certain actions until 03.12.2019.

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    November 29, 2019

    The preventive measure in the form of a ban on certain actions is extended until 03.02.2020.

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    February 27, 2020

    It becomes known that restrictions are lifted from Maksim Zavrazhnov, the measure of restraint is changed to a written undertaking not to leave.

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    October 25, 2021

    It becomes known that the criminal case against Maxim Zavrazhnov has been transferred to the Moskovsky District Court of Nizhny Novgorod.

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    December 21, 2021 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Listeners are not allowed to attend the hearing in the courtroom due to restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Prosecutor D. Maryenko makes a brief review of the five volumes of the case materials.

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    January 10, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Prosecution witnesses are being questioned.

    One of the witnesses tells the court that the protocols she signed contain information that she did not report and which was added by the operational officer herself, and she was forced to sign the document.

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

    Two witnesses in the case are being questioned.

    They do not support their testimony recorded in the protocols of their interrogations shortly after the searches in July 2019.

    The court interrogates the detective Osipov. He tells the details of the operational-search activities: how the defendant was surveilled, how the secret recording of divine services was carried out, etc.

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

    The lawyer files a motion to admit the testimony of the witness, who was forced to sign the protocol with the information added by the detective, as improper evidence.

    The defendant reads out his written notes.

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    March 29, 2022 Prosecutor requested punishment

    Maksim Zavrazhnov gives additional testimony in the case.

    D. S. Maryenko, assistant prosecutor of the Moskovsky district of Nizhny Novgorod, asks the court to sentence the believer to 5 years in a general regime colony.

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    April 13, 2022 Prosecutor requested punishment

    Zavrazhny's lawyer speaks in the debate. The defendant's last word is scheduled for May 11. A verdict may be passed at the same time.

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    May 30, 2022 Final statement First Instance Sentence

    Judge Azamat Ionov finds Maksim Zavrazhnov guilty of extremism and sentences him to 6 years probation.

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    December 5, 2022 Court of Appeal

    The Nizhny Novgorod Regional Court approves the conviction of Maksim Zavrazhnov.