Case of Metsger in Perm

Case history

On April 25, 2019, A. E. Leontiev, investigator of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Perm Territory, opened a criminal case against 43-year-old Aleksey Metzger for participation in extremist activities (part 2 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) solely on the basis that he professes the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is based on audio recordings of peaceful discussion of biblical teachings by believers. Aleksey’s case was separated from the criminal case of Aleksandr Solovyov, another believer from Perm. Thanks to his faith, Alexey was able to get rid of bad habits and create a strong family. Despite all this, the investigation charged a simple civil engineer with a serious criminal article. On November 14, 2019, Judge Svetlana Chereneva from the Ordzhonikidze District Court of Perm found the believer guilty and sentenced him to a fine of 350 thousand rubles. The Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation dismissed the appeal against the decision of the lower court.

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    December 14, 2017

    A married couple who previously attended meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses, secretly using dictaphones, conducts conversations with Solovyov and Metzger on religious topics at home.

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    December 17, 2017

    A man who had previously attended such meetings comes to the Chekhov Palace of Culture for worship of a religious group of Jehovah's Witnesses. Using a recording device issued by an operational officer, he makes an audio recording of the peaceful discussion of biblical teachings and prophecies by believers.

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    March 26, 2019

    The case of Alexei Metzger is separated into a separate proceeding.

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    April 25, 2019

    E. Leontiev, an investigator for especially important cases, initiates a criminal case against Alexei Metzger under Part 2 of Article 282.2.

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    July 4, 2019

    The Ordzhonikidze District Court of Perm found Aleksandr Solovyov guilty under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and sentenced him to a fine of 300,000 rubles instead of the 3.5 years in prison requested by the prosecutor.

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    August 5, 2019

    The Judicial Collegium for Criminal Cases of the Perm Regional Court upholds the verdict against Solovyov.

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    August 22, 2019

    Alexey Metzger was officially charged under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

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    August 29, 2019
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    September 19, 2019
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    October 1, 2019

    Preliminary hearing in the Ordzhonikidze District Court of Perm. Judge Svetlana Chereneva rejects the motion to exclude evidence.

    The main hearing in the case is scheduled for October 14 at 14:00 local time.

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    October 14, 2019

    The judge does not grant the defendant's request to refuse the state lawyer. The interests of Alexei Metzger are represented by lawyer Chernykh A.V. The defense files a motion to return the case to the prosecutor due to gross technical errors, falsifications and other violations of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

    At the initiative of the prosecution, former Jehovah's Witness Alexander Sherstobitov is being questioned. During the interrogation, curious situations arise in which the distortion of information on the part of the witness becomes obvious. Sherstobitov accuses Jehovah's Witnesses of threatening him by reading the Bible and demanding that they "bring money to the LRO." In the hall, sometimes the laughter of listeners is heard, realizing the absurdity of such testimony. One of the listeners even leaves the hall as a sign of indignation. Prosecutor A.V. Tyutikova briefly announces the indictment. Representatives of the press, including federal media, are present in the hall.

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    October 15, 2019

    Of the three prosecution witnesses testified, none appears in court. The prosecution asks to read out their testimony without personal presence, the defense does not agree and asks to ensure their forced appearance. The judge grants the request. The prosecution selectively reads out 6 volumes of the criminal case.

    The hearing will continue on October 17 at 10:30 a.m., if the prosecution ensures the appearance of its witnesses.

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    October 17, 2019

    Due to the delay of the public defender, the meeting is postponed to October 22, 11:00 local time.

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    October 22, 2019

    Replacement of the State Advocate. 5 people from the prosecution were interrogated, including the chief accountant of the house of culture, where, according to the investigation, the service of the members of the LRO took place. The accountant reports that she has never seen the accused. The other four witnesses questioned in the case are former Jehovah's Witnesses. They confirm that neither they nor Alexei Metzger were members of the LRO. None of them had ever heard Metzger call for extremist action.

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    October 24, 2019

    Three witnesses were interrogated - Metzger's fellow believer, including Alexander Solovyov, who had previously been convicted in a similar case. The court attaches documents that neither Metzger nor the prosecution witnesses were ever members of the LRO, and a copy of the brochure that the believers discussed on 17.12.2017. Metzger summarizes the content of the article. The court attaches a response from the Ministry of Justice that this brochure is not included in the list of extremist materials.

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    October 25, 2019

    The judge examines positive references from Metzger's place of work and neighbors, as well as material evidence (books, brochures, personal notes). The decision of the ECHR in the case of the Moscow community is read out. The judge granted the request to listen to two audio recordings - according to the investigation, these are recordings of divine services.

    The next meetings are scheduled for October 28 and 29. The debate of the parties will be held on November 5.

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    October 28, 2019

    The court begins listening to the audio recording of the liturgical meeting held in the House of Culture. Listeners follow the reading of passages from the Bible on their electronic devices.

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    October 29, 2019

    The new prosecutor is reprimanded by the judge for being 30 minutes late. The court finishes listening to the audio recording of the liturgical meeting. An audio recording of a conversation on a spiritual topic that took place between Sherstobitov, Metzger and Solovyov in the apartment of the former is also heard. The lawyer notes in the debate that the purpose of the conversation was to help the Sherstobitov family.

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    October 30, 2019

    The judge refuses to satisfy the motions of the defense to return the criminal case to the prosecutor and terminate the case.

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    November 5, 2019

    Judicial pleadings. The prosecutor requests 3 years of imprisonment for the defendant.

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    November 12, 2019

    The defendant delivers the last word.

    The announcement of the verdict is scheduled for November 14, 13:00 Moscow time.

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    November 13, 2019
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    November 14, 2019

    The court announced the guilty verdict: to appoint Alexei Metzger a fine of 350 thousand rubles.

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    November 20, 2019
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    January 10, 2020
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    January 13, 2020

    The Perm Regional Court upholds the verdict of the lower court.

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    April 21, 2021

    The Seventh Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction in Chelyabinsk, chaired by Judge Dmitry Kurin, leaves unchanged the verdict and the appellate ruling to Alexei Metzger.