Case of Salikova in Snezhinsk

Case History

Lyudmila Salikova, the leading engineer of the Snezhinsk Municipal Administration, had to resign due to criminal prosecution for her faith in Jehovah God. In November 2020, security forces came to her for a search, but the case was not immediately initiated. In August 2021, the investigator of the Investigative Committee, Aleksandr Chepenko, charged the believer with organizing the activities of an extremist organization and had her sign a recognizance agreement. The accusation was based on the testimony of a woman recruited by the FSB to make audio and video recordings of conversations with Salikova. In the fall of 2021, the case went to court. The prosecutor requested that the court sentence the believer to six and a half years in a penal colony. In January 2022, the court gave Lyudmila Salikova a six-year suspended sentence for professing her faith. The appellate court upheld this decision, but in January 2023, the cassation court returned the case to the appellate stage, which this time reduced the suspended sentence imposed on the believer to two and a half years.

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    November 9, 2020

    Alexander Chepenko, an investigator for particularly important cases of the Investigative Committee for the Chelyabinsk Region, initiates a criminal case under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (participation in the activities of an extremist organization) against unidentified persons.

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    November 20, 2020

    The judge of the Traktorozavodsky District Court of Chelyabinsk, Leonid Bobrov, orders a search in the apartment of pensioner Lyudmila Salikova.

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    November 30, 2020

    Searches are carried out in four houses of Snezhinsk residents early in the morning. Investigator Chepenko comes to Lyudmila Salikova, accompanied by riot police, a technical specialist and witnesses.

    During a 3-hour search of the apartment, the security forces seized electronic devices, the Bible, personal records, postcards and photographs. They then search the believer's garage and workplace. Lyudmila's colleagues are asked if she has talked to them about the Bible.

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    December 3, 2020 Search
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    August 26, 2021

    Investigator Chepenko is prosecuting 70-year-old Lyudmila Salikova as a defendant under a more serious article - organizing the activities of a banned organization (part 1 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). According to the investigation, Lyudmila Salikova, "using her authority as an experienced follower of the religious teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses, organized the admission of new members to the Religious Organization 'Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia' ... imported and imported into the Russian Federation for subsequent illegal mass distribution of religious information materials included in the federal list of extremist materials".

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    December 8, 2021

    5 listeners are allowed into the courtroom. At the meeting, the materials of 8 volumes of the criminal case are announced.

    Prosecution witnesses, including an embedded FSB agent, are being questioned. Witnesses answer the lawyer's questions about whether the defendant called for the overthrow of the constitutional order, whether she promoted the exclusivity, superiority or inferiority of a person on the basis of his nationality, religion, social status - witnesses answer in the negative. Also, all of them, except for the female agent, characterize Lyudmila Salikova positively.

    The believer reads out her attitude to the charge. She states: "I consider the criminal prosecutions to be politically motivated repressions for faith. Extremism is alien to me. I was just exercising my right to profess religion. The investigator unreasonably replaced the concept of exercising the right of citizens to freedom of religion, guaranteed by Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, with the concept of "carrying out criminal activity." She continues: "During the investigation, the investigator collected a lot of evidence that I am a believer. Eight volumes of evidence that I prayed, sang songs, talked about Jehovah God, read the Bible, that is, participated in worship services. I have never denied that I profess the faith of Jehovah's Witnesses."

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    December 9, 2021

    Audio and video recordings of conversations about the Bible secretly made by the agent are played. Among them is an accidentally recorded briefing of agent Kotelnikova by an FSB officer.

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    January 18, 2022 Prosecutor requested punishment

    Defense witnesses are being questioned. They characterize Lyudmila as a sympathetic and generous person who leads a decent lifestyle and goes in for sports. Colleagues at work note that she enjoys great respect in the team, does not conflict with people, does not show prejudice against representatives of other religions.

    An FSB officer who was present in the courtroom throughout the hearings is being questioned as a witness. Since the case file does not contain a court order to search Salikova's home, the lawyer asks the witness on what basis the operational-search measures were carried out. The FSB officer says that this was done by the decision of his superiors.

    The court is examining the materials of Salikova's case - her personal notes, postcards, as well as one of the editions of the Bible. After reading a magazine clipping titled "12 Reasons to Be Happy," the judge notes that "you can't argue with that."

    The judge learns that the defendant's work experience is 30 years, and attaches her certificate of Veteran of Labor and Veteran of the Nuclear Industry to the case file.

    The lawyer points out that there is not a single fact of the defendant committing extremist actions in the case file and asks for an acquittal.

    The prosecutor requests a punishment for the believer in the form of 6.5 years in a general regime colony.

    Lyudmila addresses the court with her last word. She does not admit guilt in extremism, emphasizing: "The goals of Jehovah's Witnesses are the most peaceful, and I am guided in my life exclusively by the Bible."

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    January 20, 2022 First Instance Sentence

    Judge of the Snezhinskiy City Court of the Chelyabinsk Region Timofey Smolyuk convicts 70-year-old Lyudmila Salikova: 6 years of suspended imprisonment.

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    March 17, 2022 Court of Appeal

    The panel of judges of the Chelyabinsk Regional Court, chaired by Alexander Rozhnov, approves the verdict to Lyudmila Salikova.

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    January 11, 2023
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    March 23, 2023