The Semyonov case in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy

Case History

In September 2021, the apartment of Dmitriy and Nadezhda Semenov was searched. A criminal case had been initiated against them because of their faith. According to the Investigative Committee, the couple encouraged a resident of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy “to participate in the activity of an extremist organization.” In June 2022, the couple’s case went to court. The charges were based on the testimony of a woman who expressed a desire to study the Bible with the Semenovs and later began to cooperate with the FSB. In November 2022, the court gave Dmitriy and Nadezhda a four-year suspended sentence for talking about the Bible. The court of appeal upheld the verdict.

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    July 21, 2021

    Detective of the FSB Directorate for the Kamchatka Territory, Senior Lieutenant D. Popov, submits to the investigative department for the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation a report and materials on the results of operational-search activities in relation to Dmitry and Nadezhda Semenov.

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    September 3, 2021

    Senior investigator of the Investigative Committee for the Kamchatka Territory Maxim Kudantsev initiates a criminal case against Dmitry Semenov and his wife Nadezhda. He suspects them of involving other persons in the activities of an extremist organization. According to the investigation, the spouses "persuaded, persuading a resident of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and other unidentified persons to take part in the activities of an extremist organization."

    The Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court gives permission to search the Semenovs' home "in order to find and seize literature, documentation, electronic media containing information of an extremist nature, as well as computers and other technical means with the help of which criminal activity was carried out, as well as other items relevant to the criminal case."

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    September 6, 2021

    The Semenovs' apartment is being searched. They seize electronic devices, a router, a webcam, as well as the New Testament and personal diaries.

    Nadezhda and Dmitriy are taken to the Investigative Committee for interrogation. They use Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which allows them not to testify against themselves and their loved ones. Spouses are chosen a measure of restraint in the form of a written undertaking not to leave.

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    September 8, 2021 Search
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    September 15, 2021

    Investigator Kudantsev prosecutes Dmitry and Nadezhda under Part 1.1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation for "deciding to persuade E. I. Turova and other unidentified citizens to join the religious organization of the LRO Jehovah's Witnesses, and repeatedly interviewed them via the Internet."

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    November 26, 2021

    Investigator Kudantsev issues a new resolution of extended content on the involvement of spouses as accused. It says that the Semenovs "in order to persuade Turova to join an extremist organization, handed her a handwritten letter through her mailbox containing words and statements encouraging her to take active steps aimed at joining the confession ... Having received a response from Turova, they began to hold repeated meetings in her apartment, during which they justified, propagandized and justified the activities of the extremist organization LRO of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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    June 23, 2022

    The criminal case of the Semyonov spouses is submitted to the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court of the Kamchatka Territory. He is appointed to judge Vladimir Bykov.

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    August 9, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Prosecution witness E. Turova, who for several years discussed biblical teachings with Dmitry and Nadezhda Semenov, is being interrogated. Later, she turned to the FSB, where, according to her, she was "helped to write" a statement against the believers.

    She admits that she liked to communicate with the Semyonovs and their friends, "it was interesting to study the Bible." The woman did not hear any extremist statements or calls for violence from believers.

    During the hearing, it becomes obvious that the witness confuses the concepts of "confession" and "legal entity", as she assumes that the discussion of the Bible with the Semenovs was involvement in the activities of the legal entity. At the same time, she confirms that the believers did not encourage her to join any organization.

    Also, the defense draws attention to the fact that the woman's oral testimony diverges from the written ones, and she cannot say with certainty which of them correspond to reality.

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    September 9, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The transcript of the conversation between Turova and the Semyonovs about the Bible is read out. Dmitry Semyonov draws the court's attention to the fact that only biblical material is being discussed. He emphasizes that the expert did not find in the actions of the defendants signs of involvement in the activities of any organization.

    Further, Dmitry points out an error in the transcript that distorts the meaning of what was said: the phrase "God will resurrect millions of dead people" in the transcript is rendered as "God will resurrect millions of better people."

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    September 16, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The announcement of the written materials of the case is being completed. The defense draws attention to the groundlessness of the conclusions of the examination, as well as to the fact that the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in 2017 did not prohibit the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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    September 26, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court shall attach to the case file the characteristics and letters of the defendants.

    Fragments of video recordings of conversations between the defendants and witness Turova are being examined. At the same time, the defense comments that the Semenovs do not give assessments to other religions, but simply discuss the Bible with the woman.

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    October 12, 2022 Prosecutor requested punishment Closing arguments for the defense

    State prosecutor Pavel Venin requests 4 years in a general regime colony for Dmitry and Nadezhda Semenov. At the same time, the prosecutor does not provide evidence of the guilt of the defendants, but reads out only excerpts from the indictment.

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    October 31, 2022 Final statement

    Dmitry Semenov gives his last word. He tells the court how much damage the criminal prosecution for their faith has caused him and his wife and explains why they cannot be considered extremists.

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    November 8, 2022 Final statement

    Nadezhda Semenova gives her last word. She says: "Is it against the law to help people change for the better, to quit bad habits such as smoking, drinking, drugs, stealing, foul language, and so on? But many people have gotten rid of such things through Bible study."

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    February 14, 2023