The Case of Polosenko and Others in Samara

Case History

In December 2021, at least 10 homes of Jehovah's Witnesses were searched in Samara. In one of the apartments, the security forces tortured and beat believers. Three men were arrested and taken into custody. An investigator of the FSB of Russia initiated a criminal case against Sergey Polosenko, Denis Kuzyanin, Nikolay Vasiliyev and Aram Danielyan, who was detained and sent to a pretrial detention center three weeks later, on charges of continuing the activity of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia in the Samara Region. After about 300 days in detention, the believers were released from custody under a ban on certain actions. In April 2023, the case went to court. In January 2024, the prosecutor requested that the believers each be sentenced to 9 years in a penal colony. At the same hearing, the court sentenced them to 7 years imprisonment. In May, the court of appeal upheld the ruling.

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    December 14, 2021

    Senior investigator of the first branch of the investigation department of the FSB of Russia in the Samara region, Captain of Justice I. A. Ivensky initiates a criminal case against Sergey Polosenko, Denis Kuzyanin and Nikolai Vasiliev. The believers are suspected of organizing the activities of an extremist organization (Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

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    December 15, 2021

    Mass searches of believers are taking place in Samara. A 23-year-old man reports threats and torture with a heated kettle for refusing to provide security forces with a laptop password.

    Polosenko, Kuzyanin and Vasilyev are detained and placed in a temporary detention facility.

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    December 16, 2021

    The Samara District Court chooses a measure of restraint for believers in the form of detention for a period of 2 months.

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    December 18, 2021

    Denis Kuzyanin and Sergey Polosenko are transferred to pre-trial detention center No. 1 in the Samara region.

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    December 20, 2021

    The lawyer visits Nikolay Vasilyev in the temporary detention center. The believer tells the details of his arrest: in order to get into the apartment, the security forces broke down the door, and when they entered, they threatened with firearms and beat Nikolai.

    The suspect has a chronic illness and is taking medication on an ongoing basis. The believer submitted an application to the temporary detention facility with a request to conduct a medical examination in order to record the beatings.

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    December 21, 2021 Search

    The lawyer visits Denis Kuzyanin and Sergey Polosenko in pre-trial detention center No. 1 in the Samara region. Both believers are in quarantine. Denis reports that he notices signs of a cold, as it is cold in the cell, and he has to sleep without a mattress. He does not have a Bible yet, and the believer has not yet received a letter of support.

    Sergei Polosenko is kept in a three-bed cell, where there are four prisoners, so he sleeps on the table. He has the necessary medicines as well as a Bible.

    Sergey Polosenko is charged with committing a crime under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

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    January 6, 2022

    Investigator Ivensky initiates a criminal case against Aram Danielyan, the father of a six-month-old baby. The believer is suspected of committing a crime under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The criminal case is merged into one proceeding with the case of Polosenko et al.

    According to investigators, the believers resumed the activities of the "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" in the Samara region from December 2020 to December 2021.

    Around midnight, law enforcement officers detained Danielyan at the Samara airport. During a personal search, his passport, mobile phone and air ticket were seized from him (the believer planned to visit his homeland - Armenia).

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    January 7, 2022

    Despite the fact that Danielyan has a permanent place of residence, a family and a small child, investigator Ivensky insists on the detention of the believer. He believes that Aram Danielyan can hide from the investigation or destroy material evidence if a milder measure of restraint is chosen.

    The Samara District Court chooses a measure of restraint for Danielyan in the form of detention until February 14, 2022. He is placed in a temporary detention facility.

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    January 10, 2022

    It becomes known that Nikolay Vasilyev was transferred to pre-trial detention center No. 1 in the Samara region.

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    November 24, 2022 Medical treatment within the Federal Penitentiary Service

    It becomes known that Nikolai Vasiliev was hospitalized with a serious illness. Soon he should be transported back to the pre-trial detention center, where he will be placed in the infirmary.

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    December 12 — 14, 2022 Prohibition of certain actions

    After about 300 days of imprisonment, the four believers are released under a ban on certain activities until February 14, 2023. To track their movements, electronic bracelets are put on their feet.

    At the exit from the courthouse, Aram, Denis, Sergey and Nikolay are greeted with applause by a support group of 30 people. Believers do not complain about their state of health.

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    April 20, 2023 Case went to court

    The case against 4 believers is submitted to the Samara District Court of Samara. It will be considered by judge Dmitry Derunov.

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    July 14, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The prosecutor reads out the indictment. The defendants express their disagreement.

    Aram Danielyan says that it is important for him as a Christian to worship God with others, including praying and singing songs, and that this is his constitutional right.

    Sergei Polosenko states that the investigation did not bring any of his specific statements testifying to the manifestation of extremism. He states that the mention of the name Jehovah does not in itself indicate that a person or group of people belongs to any legal entity.

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    July 28, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation

    A prosecution witness, FSB operative N. A. Kulik, who participated in the search of the Polosenko family, is being interrogated.

    The witness says that, in his opinion, the defendants took too long to familiarize themselves with the case file. To some of the lawyers' questions, Kulik answers "I don't know", "I don't remember", or says that the information is available in the case file.

    Aram Danielyan, Denis Kuzyanin and Nikolay Vasilyev refuse the services of lawyers. Danielyan submits a petition for his wife's participation in the defense.

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    August 11, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court satisfies the petition of Sergey Polosenko to refuse a lawyer under the agreement.

    Denis Kuzyanin asks the court to change the measure of restraint so that he has the opportunity to go to work in a neighboring city. The court refuses.

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    September 1, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation

    The court is interrogating the witness Kharitonov, who attended services of Jehovah's Witnesses until 2017. He replies that his conversations with the defendants were only about studying the Bible and "were not of a propagandistic nature." The prosecutor asks the court to read out Kharitonov's initial testimony.

    Another witness, Yeganyan, who has repeatedly spoken aggressively about Jehovah's Witnesses, says he only knows Denis Kuzyanin. After the interrogation, Yeganyan, addressing the defendants, threatens "to imprison more believers in the near future."

    At the same time, both witnesses confirm that they did not hear calls from the defendants to overthrow the constitutional order of the Russian Federation and did not see manifestations of extremism towards others.

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    September 8, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court examines the materials of the case. The prosecutor reads out the documents of 2014 relating to the legal entity of Jehovah's Witnesses, and the examination of their literature, made in 2009. The latter recognizes that Jehovah's Witnesses are always loyal and obedient to the authorities and are tolerant of representatives of other religions.

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    September 15, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation

    Witnesses are being questioned. One of them studied the Bible with Aram Danielyan via video link and secretly recorded their conversations. The witness describes him as a good speaker and a talented teacher. He knows Aram and the other defendants only online, and he has not heard any calls for illegal actions.

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    October 11, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation

    A girl who was a former Jehovah's Witness is being interrogated. She did not hear any calls from the defendants for illegal activities, refusal to perform civil duties, as well as incitement to violence and the overthrow of the state system. The witness attended the services voluntarily, they were educational in nature, the Bible was discussed. The girl is surprised that the legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses are recognized as extremist, because "these are peaceful people who live according to the Bible and do nothing wrong."

    The judge extends the defendants' preventive measure until January 20, 2024.

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    October 12, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The prosecutor voices in detail the religious documents of the local community of Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as lists of believers and their correspondence in messengers.

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    October 19, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation

    According to the videoconferencing, the compilers of the religious examination Galiulin R. R. and Galiev L. M. It turns out that the examination was paid for by the FSB. The judge removes the question regarding the religion of the experts.

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    October 26, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The prosecutor finishes the announcement of the last volumes of the case (28-35). The court examines material evidence, including Bibles, seized during the search. Nikolay Vasilyev notes that the investigation did not provide evidence that the seized literature is included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials.

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    November 2, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation

    On the part of the defense, two employees of Aram Danielyan and his relative are being interrogated. They know the defendant as an honest, sympathetic and law-abiding citizen, without bad habits. He never participated in the discussion of political issues, did not incite anyone to hatred and enmity, they did not hear extremist statements from him.

    The defendants draw the court's attention to the conclusion of a comprehensive psychological and religious examination. It emphasizes that believers are a religious group, and their meetings are informal. The form of addressing the participants to each other by name, as well as the use of the words "brother" and "sister" indicates that they are equal to each other, there are no divisions by position.

    According to the conclusion of the examination, the words of believers do not contain propaganda of the inferiority of citizens on a national or social basis, motives to break off family relations or to carry out extremist activities.

    Sergei Polosenko states that the bank cards and personal records presented in the case file do not prove in any way that he was engaged in extremist activities: "Rather, their presence suggests that I live in society, I have a business reputation."

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    November 23 and 30, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation

    A motion has been filed to attach positive characteristics to the defendants.

    Defense witnesses are interrogated - acquaintances and relatives of the accused. Five of them, who are not Jehovah's Witnesses, state that the difference in religions has never caused disagreement or controversy between them and the defendants.

    Denis Kuzyanin tells the court that during the search, two new folders appeared in the memory of the laptop seized from him, which contain information included in the indictment of the case file.

    Judge Dmitry Derunov instructs the secretary to summon for questioning the persons who were present during the search of Kuzyanin's house.

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    December 7, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation

    The FSB task force that searched Denis Kuzyanin's house is being interrogated. As it turned out, the instruction to the technician to create new folders on the desktop of the believer's laptop and add documents there during the search was given by the detective. The investigator did not reflect these actions in the protocol.

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    December 14, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation

    The defendants comment on the materials of the case with the decision of the ECHR regarding Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and conclude: "The assertion by the consequence that the proclamation of one's religion as the only true one is regarded as incitement to religious hatred, entailing socially dangerous consequences, is a kind of speculation of the investigator ... Neither the examination of the evidence by the prosecution, nor the testimony of witnesses, nor the examination proved the fact confirming that the defendants incited religious hatred or proclaimed violence on any grounds.

    For an hour, the court watches a video recording in which Aram Danielyan discusses Bible teachings with a man.

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    December 18, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Audio recordings of the worship service in which the defendants participated are listened to.

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    December 28, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The Court continues to listen to audio recordings of worship services, in particular a report on "Put on Love", which speaks of the importance of forgiveness and conflict resolution.

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    January 25, 2024 First Instance Sentence Art. 282.2 (1) Deprivation of liberty Prosecutor requested punishment Closing arguments for the defense Final statement
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    February 5, 2024 Detention center

    Aram Danielyan, Denis Kuzyanin, Sergey Polosenko and Nikolay Vasilyev are in SIZO-1 in Samara. They can write letters.

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    April 2, 2024 Transfer of a prisoner Detention center

    Sergey Polosenko and Nikolay Vasilyev are transferred to Togliatti pre-trial detention center No. 4. They can write letters.

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    April 22, 2024 Detention center Letters

    Nikolay Vasilyev and Sergey Polosenko are still in the Togliatti pre-trial detention center awaiting an appeal. Vasilyev is being held in a two-bed cell, and Polosenko is being held in a four-bed cell. Believers regularly receive parcels from loved ones, but for some unknown reason they have not yet received letters. Relations with the administration of the pre-trial detention center and cellmates are normal.

    After the verdict, Polosenko had several visits with his wife and other relatives. Vasiliev has the opportunity to regularly take medications necessary for his chronic illness.

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    May 20, 2024 Court of Appeal Art. 282.2 (1) Deprivation of liberty
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    June 19, 2024 Detention center Transfer of a prisoner Life in prison

    It becomes known that Sergey Polosenko and Nikolai Vasilyev left the pre-trial detention center and are in the process of moving to a place of serving their sentence.

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    July 8, 2024 Life in prison

    Denis Kuzyanin and Aram Danielyan were taken to a Mordovian colony to serve their sentences for their faith.

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    July 11, 2024 Life in prison Transfer of a prisoner

    It becomes known that Nikolay Vasilyev and Sergey Polosenko were taken to correctional colony No. 12 in Mordovia to serve their sentences for their faith.