The case of the Chechulins in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

Case History

Spouses Sergey and Yelena Chechulin became defendants in another criminal case against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kamchatka. In September 2022, the Investigative Committee suspected them of organizing the activities of an extremist organization. A month later, their home was searched, and the spouses were placed under recognizance agreement. In December 2023, their case was submitted to the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court. Four months later, the prosecutor requested a sentence of 6 years in prison for the spouses.

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    September 25, 2022 Case initiated

    Investigator D. M. Petukhov of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Kamchatka Territory initiates a criminal case against the spouses Sergey and Elena Chechulin. They are suspected of organizing the activities of an extremist organization. According to the investigator, the unlawful actions of the believers were expressed in "convening meetings, organizing collective religious speeches and services, in accordance with the ideology of the religious association of Jehovah's Witnesses at these meetings." They are also charged with "planned training in the postulates of the religious association Jehovah's Witnesses."

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    October 17, 2022
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    November 30, 2023 Case went to court

    Deputy Prosecutor of the Kamchatka Territory Maxim Kulikov informs the Chechulins that the criminal case under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation has been sent to the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court for consideration on the merits.

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    January 10, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance Prosecution of several family members

    The defendants express their attitude to the charges. Sergey Chechulin recalls the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, which did not evaluate individual actions of Jehovah's Witnesses as believers. The defendant stresses that his and his wife's right to profess religion is inappropriately regarded as a criminal offence. He notes: "Not a single episode of a crime against the state or against any person is given ... We live by the biblical commandment 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

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    January 24, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance Prosecution of several family members

    The court reads out the transcripts of the believers' conversations. Commenting on one of the audio recordings, Elena Chechulina explains that she talked with friends about how to find true happiness, and how hope helps to maintain a positive attitude in difficult times. She says, "It is love that is at the heart of my actions, not hatred or enmity as the indictment says."

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    January 29, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation Prosecution of several family members

    Witnesses are being questioned. One of them says that she knows the defendants as believers, decent and law-abiding people, and the other has never seen the Chechulins.

    Sergey Chechulin comments on one of the transcripts of the recorded conversation: "We are talking about prayer, the conversation is completely based on the Bible, there are no words that would humiliate representatives of other religions." Elena Chechulina adds: "The transcript often mentions the expression 'meeting of the congregation,' which means Christian worship, not a meeting of a legal entity."

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    January 30, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance Prosecution of several family members

    The court continues to read out the transcripts of the recordings. Sergey Chechulin draws attention to the topic discussed at the service - how not to get addicted to video games and alcohol. Yelena Chechulina notes: "The investigation presents the joint worship of God, the performance of religious songs and prayers as a criminal act."

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    January 31, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance Prosecution of several family members

    The reading of transcripts of hidden recordings continues. Sergey Chechulin explains that this passage discusses the question of how to choose words in a conversation with people so as not to hurt their feelings.

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    February 19, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance Prosecution of several family members

    Prosecutor Denis Sotnikov announces the end of the presentation of his evidence. The case file contains at least 17 volumes.

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    March 6, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance Prosecution of several family members

    The defendants give their testimony to the court.

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    March 19, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation Prosecution of several family members

    The defense invites 14 witnesses to the court for questioning. All of them use Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

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    April 4, 2024 Prosecutor requested punishment Prosecution of several family members

    The prosecutor requests for Sergey and Elena Chechulin a sentence of 6 years in a general regime colony with deprivation of the right to engage in activities related to participation in the work of public organizations for 4 years and restriction of liberty for 1 year.

    The prosecutor also asks to cancel the arrest imposed on Elena's money and Sergey's car, and return them to the defendants. He appeals to the court with a request to assess the actions of witnesses who used Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation at the hearing.

  • April 18, 2024
    Prosecution of several family members Final statement First Instance Sentence
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    Referee: Ivan Pantyashin. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court (Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Kurchatov Street, 6). Time: 14:30.