Case of Ledenyov in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy

Case history

“They liquidated a legal entity, but they are persecuting an individual. If a hospital is closed, doctors are not judged for being doctors.” So a peaceful believer from Kamchatka, Sergey Ledenyov, had to explain the obvious in court. In December 2018, a criminal case was opened against him under Article 282.2 (1) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The investigator accused Ledenyov of organizing extremist activities, imputing “planned training in the postulates of the religious association Jehovah’s Witnesses.” At a preliminary hearing, the court returned the case to the prosecutor, but the supervisory authority eventually insisted that the case be considered in court. At the hearings in the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court, chaired by Natalia Lychkova, witnesses, a religious scholar, and the defendant himself repeatedly emphasized the peacefulness of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their incompatibility with extremism. Nevertheless, the prosecutor demanded that the court imprison Ledenyov for 6 years in a colony. In November 2020, the court sentenced him to 2 years of suspended imprisonment. On January 19, 2021, the appellate court upheld the verdict. On August 19, 2022, the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court expunged Sergey’s criminal record ahead of schedule.

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    December 2, 2018

    Without a court sanction, employees of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Kamchatka Territory Sunchaliev D. and Smirnov D.A., accompanied by FSB officers Prokopenko A.V., Filimonov P.D., Yakovlev S.A. and police officer Lykov I.A. invade with searches in 2 apartments of believers of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Investigator D. Sunchaliev initiated a criminal case against Sergey Ledenev under Part 1 of Article 282.2. A written undertaking not to leave is taken from the believer.

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    December 5, 2018

    The Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court retroactively recognizes the legality of the search conducted at the homes of believers.

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    December 6, 2018
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    December 20, 2018

    Sergey Ledenyov is obliged to appear.

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    November 1, 2019

    Sergey Ledenyov is handed the indictment.

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    November 28, 2019

    The case is transferred to the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court for consideration on the merits, presided over by Judge Sergey Lubnin.

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    December 12, 2019

    Preliminary hearing. The court returns the case to the prosecutor.

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    December 16, 2019
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    February 4, 2020

    The Kamchatka Regional Court cancels the decision of the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court to return the case to the prosecutor. This means that the criminal case against 45-year-old Sergey Ledenev is again transferred to the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court for consideration on the merits.

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    February 10, 2020

    The case is registered under number 1-197/2020 and transferred to Judge Natalia Lychkova for consideration on the merits.

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    February 19, 2020

    The main hearing in the criminal case of Sergey Ledenev is being held in the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court. The prosecutor reads out the indictment. The defendant disagrees with the charges.

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    February 27, 2020

    In the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court, the judicial investigation continues. Witness Anna Ledeneva (wife of the defendant) and Svetlana Bazhutina, whose house was searched on December 2, 2018 and who had already used Article 51 of the Constitution during the preliminary investigation, were questioned. When Judge Natalya Lychkova hears that women are again refusing to testify using Article 51, she and the prosecutor exert strong emotional pressure on them. After the break, the protocols of the interrogations of the remaining witnesses are read out, and the prosecutor reads out the written materials of the case.

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    March 3, 2020

    The hearing in the court of first instance is ongoing. The session is held under the presiding judge Natalia Lychkova and the state prosecutor T. M. Khachaturyan. A prosecution witness and a religious scholar are being questioned. He explains to the court that it is necessary to separate the activities of a legal entity and the religious activities of citizens. The specialist also notes that non-violence is the most important postulate of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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    March 17, 2020 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    At the hearing, the prosecution presents written evidence in the criminal case.

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    April 20, 2020

    Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the meeting is postponed to May 7, 2020.

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    May 7, 2020 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court suspends consideration of the criminal case of Ledenev. Judge Natalia Lychkova has not yet set a date for the next court hearing.

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    September 28, 2020

    After a break due to the coronavirus pandemic, hearings resume in the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court in the case of Sergey Ledenev. 3 people were allowed to attend the hearing.

    In his testimony, Sergey explains in detail the totality of the Bible's teachings and how they positively influenced his life.

    Sergey does not understand what he is accused of, since he does not and did not have any connection with a legal entity that was banned by the Supreme Court. He says: "It turns out that they liquidated a legal entity, but they are persecuting an individual. If a hospital is closed, doctors are not judged for being doctors."

    Ledenyov recalls that no court can recognize religion as illegal activity, and complains that the prosecution misleads the court by mixing his personal life and the activities of banned organizations.

    He also recalls that the President of the Russian Federation questioned the legality of the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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    November 9, 2020

    During the debate in the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court, the prosecutor demands that 46-year-old Sergey Ledenyov be imprisoned in a general regime colony for 6 years, followed by restriction of freedom for a period of 1 year.

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    November 10, 2020 Final statement

    The prosecutor filed a motion to resume the judicial investigation and summon for questioning historian Maria Serdyuk, who conducted a religious examination of the case. Earlier during the debate, Ledenyov presented to the judge arguments indicating that the examination was carried out with violations, and the expert's position was openly biased against Jehovah's Witnesses. The trial will continue on November 11.

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    November 11, 2020 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Sergey Ledenyov speaks in court with his last word. He rejects the accusations of extremism, explaining that his Christian faith is not banned in Russia by any court and there are no victims in his case. The verdict is scheduled to be announced on November 24.

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    November 24, 2020 First Instance Sentence

    Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court. Judge Natalia Lychkova announces the verdict: to find him guilty of the activities of an extremist organization, reclassifying the actions from part 1 (organization) to part 2 (participation) of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Assign 2 years of suspended imprisonment with a probationary period of 3 years.

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    November 25, 2020
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    January 19, 2021 Court of Appeal

    The Kamchatka Regional Court is considering Sergey Ledenev's appeal against the verdict of the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court, which nailed the believer to 2 years of suspended imprisonment with a probationary period of 3 years. Addressing the court of appeal with the defendant's last word, Ledenyov argues: "There was no connection with the activities of a legal entity in my dedication to God and baptism as a Jehovah's Witness. Legal entities have been liquidated, but I remain a believer. Jehovah is not the name of an organization, but the name of God, and it is impossible to forbid Him. People who believe in him, like me, and bear witness to him, are also not forbidden. It is also not forbidden to read the Bible, pray and sing songs - these are all things that were captured in [operational-search] materials."

    Returning from the deliberation room, Judge Valentina Goltsova announces the ruling: the verdict of the first instance should be left unchanged.

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    August 19, 2022

    The Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court of the Kamchatka Territory prematurely removes the criminal record from Sergey Ledenev. The court decision canceled the suspended sentence handed down on November 24, 2020.