The Case of Yakovlev in Sosnovoborsk

Case History

In March 2022, the Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case against Yuriy Yakovlev, a resident of Sosnovoborsk. On the next day, the home of the believer was searched, and later he was arrested and placed in a pretrial detention center. The accusation was based on hidden audio recordings of meetings for worship and conversations with friends on Bible topics. The investigation considered such actions as “arranging online meetings”, “pastoral work” and “leading preaching activities” to be organizing the activity of an extremist organization. The investigation lasted 71 days. In June 2022, the case went to court. Although the trial only proved that Yakovlev was one of Jehovah's Witnesses, in March of the following year the believer was sentenced to 6 years and 2 months in a penal colony. In May 2024, the court of appeal upheld this verdict.

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    June-December 2021

    Operational-search measures are carried out: "wiretapping", "removal of information from technical communication channels", "inquiry", "observation", "survey", "examination of objects and documents".

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    March 28, 2022 Case initiated

    Investigator for the Berezovsky District of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Republic of Khakassia, Captain of Justice Y. V. Prannichuk initiates a criminal case against Yuri Yakovlev, a resident of Sosnovoborsk. She suspects Yakovlev of "organizing religious performances and services in the mode of online broadcasts." The investigation interprets these actions as organizing the activities of an extremist community (Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

    Prannichuk makes a decision to search Yakovlev's home without court permission, since, in her opinion, the case is urgent.

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    March 29, 2022

    Searches and interrogations are being conducted in 5 families of Jehovah's Witnesses from Sosnovoborsk. A man who is not one of Jehovah's Witnesses, with whom Yakovlev discussed Bible teachings, is also being interrogated.

    The believer is detained and sent to a temporary detention center.

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    March 30, 2022

    The Sosnovoborsk City Court decides to detain Yuriy Yakovlev for two months.

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    May 18, 2022

    Yakovlev is being prosecuted under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code.

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    June 7, 2022

    Yakovlev's case goes to the Sosnovoborsk City Court of the Krasnoyarsk Territory. It will be considered by judge Anastasia Ivanova.

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    June 20, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The first court session is held. The lawyer asks to postpone the hearing to June 28, since she received the indictment only the day before.

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    July 7, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    "The accusation is not clearly formulated," Yuriy Yakovlev expresses his attitude to the position of the prosecutor's office. The defense file a motion for the admission of evidence, which the court satisfies.

    12 listeners come to support the believer in court.

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    August 1, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court begins consideration of the case materials. The prosecutor reads the first volume, which contains a transcript of the entire liturgical meeting. Among other things, a chapter from the Bible and Bible videos are cited.

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    August 8, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The prosecutor continues to read about the topics of a balanced attitude towards alcohol, the importance of obedience to the authorities and the manifestation of such qualities as gratitude, self-control, love, as well as stories about mutual assistance among believers during the pandemic - the prosecutor continues to read about this in the first volume of the case materials.

    After the break, the transcript of the Bible conversation with Yuri, secretly recorded at his home, is read out.

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    September 14, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court reads out transcripts of recordings of telephone conversations and video calls made through Yuriy's computer. The court is shown a photograph of the believer's computer screen.

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    November 14, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The operative of the FSB of Russia for the Krasnoyarsk Territory A. Mukhlynin is being interrogated. The lawyer asks the prosecutor not to whisper or suggest answers to the witness. To the questions of the defense, he answers "I don't remember", "I can't say", or simply keeps silent.

    Then another prosecution witness is being questioned. It uses Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

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

    The defense files a motion to declassify the secret witness. The witness agrees and enters the courtroom. Almost immediately, he declares that he wants to use Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. The testimonies given by him during the investigation are checked. He will not recognize his testimony and signatures.

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    November 25, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court satisfies the petition of Assistant Prosecutor Zhirnov to extend Yuri Yakovlev's stay in the pre-trial detention center for another 3 months. In his defense, the believer says: "I carry out peaceful activities, try to teach people what is good and bring them closer to God."

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

    Grigory Illarionov, a religious scholar and teacher of political science at the Siberian Federal University, is being interrogated via video link. He notes that the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses is not prohibited in Russia and that believers can gather together for worship. Illarionov adds that "Jehovah's Witnesses are united throughout the world."

    He also says that Yakovlev did not call for violence and the overthrow of the constitutional order.

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    December 19, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court listens to discs with recordings of divine services, where various topics are discussed: the creation of man, the qualities of God, the danger of alcohol abuse, and others. The lawyer claims a discrepancy in the transcript: the word "heart" is clearly heard on the audio recording, and the word "sect" is written in the transcript.

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    December 23, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    A man who appears as a witness at the trial submits a petition to recognize the search of his house as illegal. He says that the search in the apartment began at 5:30 in the morning and then continued in the car and lasted 4 hours. Then the man was taken for interrogation to the Investigative Committee, where, according to him, he was threatened when he used Article 51. The witness says that all the seized items were gradually returned to him.

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    January 13, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The meeting begins with the interrogation of investigator Y. V. Prannichuk. Her lawyer asks her questions about the indictment. It turns out that violations were committed during the investigation. For example, the lawyer's petition to terminate the criminal case was not attached to the case file. When asked how Prannichuk determined that Yakovlev was a member of the LRO, she replies: "He used the means of conspiracy and continued to preach." Answering some questions, the investigator is confused, cannot answer and often asks to repeat the question.

    Yuri Yakovlev asks the investigator why he was not shown the things that were seized from him. Investigator Prannichuk replies that there are witnesses for this. To which Yakovlev notes that the witnesses stood at the door and could not see everything that was happening: "They could throw me something that I did not have. That's why I refused to sign the protocol."

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

    The court examines the literature seized during the search from Yuriy Yakovlev: several Bibles, notebooks and notebooks. The judge reads aloud the believer's personal notes, which record Bible teachings.

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    February 17, 2023 Prosecutor requested punishment

    During the debate, the prosecutor asks Yuriy Yakovlev for 8 years in a general regime colony. He says that the defendant's guilt has been fully proven, but at the same time does not provide a single piece of evidence of specifically extremist actions.

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    March 17, 2023 Final statement First Instance Sentence

    "I feel calm because I am not judged for evil deeds, but for good ones." Yuriy Yakovlev makes his last word in court.

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    April 27, 2023 Detention center

    Despite the fact that Yuriy has been in jail for almost 14 months, his emotional state is good - he is calm, does not lose the joy of life. The state of health of the believer is satisfactory. He has a disease of the spine. The medications that were given to him turned out to be ineffective, so he does physical exercises, keeping himself in shape.

    Twice a month, Yuri is given visits with his sister or with one of his friends. The believer has a Bible, he receives parcels and many letters. When their number exceeded 4,000, he stopped counting them.

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    August 16, 2023 Transfer of a prisoner Deprivation of liberty Life in prison

    The believer is taken to a penal colony in the village of Startsevo, located 30 km from Krasnoyarsk.

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    September 19, 2023 Court of Appeal

    At the appeal hearing, Yuriy Yakovlev asks for the disqualification of the lawyer by appointment. The court satisfies.

    The prosecutor applies for religious and linguistic examinations. The lawyer under the agreement asks to adjourn the meeting for the preparation of written objections.

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    September 28, 2023 Court of Appeal

    The court appoints two examinations: religious studies (it will be conducted by religious scholar Grigory Illarionov, who was previously involved in the case as a specialist and has already expressed his opinion on all the issues raised for resolution) and linguistic, which will be carried out in an institution chosen by the prosecutor.

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    February 9, 2024 Detention center Transfer of a prisoner

    It becomes known that Yuri Yakovlev is in pre-trial detention center No. 6 in the Krasnoyarsk Territory. He can write letters.

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    March 13, 2024 Transfer of a prisoner Detention center Letters

    Yuriy Yakovlev is transferred to pre-trial detention center No. 3 in the city of Achinsk, Krasnoyarsk Territory. He can write letters.

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    April 29, 2024 Detention center Letters

    In the Achinsk pre-trial detention center, Yuriy Yakovlev is kept in solitary confinement. His state of health is satisfactory. Yuriy has everything he needs; He was allowed a date with friends.

    The believer receives only e-mails, paper letters are not given to him for some unknown reason.

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    May 21, 2024 Court of Appeal Art. 282.2 (1) Deprivation of liberty
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    July 4, 2024 Transfer of a prisoner Life in prison

    It becomes known that Yuriy Yakovlev has arrived at correctional colony No. 31 in Krasnoyarsk. He can receive letters.