The case of Kozhevnikova in Tolyatti

Case History

In May 2023, the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Tolyatti were searched. Yelena Kozhevnikova became a defendant in a criminal case for her faith. A written undertaking not to leave was taken from her. The woman was accused of participating in the activities of an extremist organization only because she gathered with friends to discuss Bible teachings. The basis for initiating a criminal case was a hidden video recording of religious services, which was conducted for 2.5 years. In July 2023, the case went to court. The prosecutor requested 4 years in prison for Yelena. In March 2024, the court issued a 2-year suspended sentence.

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    May 15, 2023 Case initiated Art. 282.2 (2)

    Anatoly Grekov, an investigator of the Central Investigation Department of the City of Tolyatti of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Samara Region, is initiating a criminal case under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code against 61-year-old Elena Kozhevnikova.

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    May 16, 2023 Search

    Under the direction of investigator Grekov in Tolyatti, searches are carried out at 4 addresses, including Elena Kozhevnikova.

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    May 18, 2023 Recognizance agreement

    Investigator Mgoyan chooses a preventive measure for Kozhevnikova in the form of a written undertaking not to leave the place.

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    June 22, 2023 Art. 282.2 (2)

    Investigator Ruslan Mgoyan involves Elena Kozhevnikova as an accused. She is accused of taking an active part in the activities of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses through video conferencing.

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    July 21, 2023 Case went to court

    The criminal case is submitted to the Central District Court of Tolyatti and appointed to Judge Irina Onuchina.

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    September 11, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Elderly

    The defendant makes 6 motions, including the refusal of a lawyer by appointment. The court rejects this petition.

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    October 4, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Elderly

    20 people come to support Elena Kozhevnikova, but they are not allowed into the courtroom.

    Judge Irina Onuchina asks to appoint one person who will record the hearing.
    The case materials from the 1st volume, including the testimony of experts, are read out.

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    October 5, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Elderly

    The study of the case materials - the records of three divine services - continues.

    At the next meeting, it is planned to review the disks from the case materials. The judge says he leaves it up to the defense. The appointed lawyer refuses to view, arguing that she has already watched the recordings. Kozhevnikova considers viewing necessary and wants to comment on the video materials to the court.

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

    9 people come to the court session, but only one is allowed into the courtroom to make an audio recording of the process.

    The reading of the 1st volume of the case continues. Kozhevnikova filed a petition for the court to study materials on the works of Kuprin, the Synodal edition of the Bible and the textbook "Fundamentals of Religious Studies" edited by Yablokov.

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    January 22, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation Expert studies with violations

    Expert Galiev is being interrogated. The defendant Kozhevnikova asks the court to recognize his conclusion as inadmissible evidence.

    Experts are being interrogated: associate professor Lenar Galiev and master Kirill Kirushin. The defendant asks the court to recognize their conclusions as inadmissible evidence of her guilt. She notes that Kirushin did not have the right to conduct a study of the materials, since he is not a state forensic expert; Lenar Galiev went beyond his competence by giving a legal assessment of her religious affiliation; the examination contains a negative assessment of the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses without indications of scientific sources, which may indicate bias of experts.

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    February 20, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Elena Kozhevnikova reads out her testimony against her accusation. She declares that she does not pose any public danger, as she respects people of any nationality and religion, respects the laws and the government of Russia. "I do not believe that talking about God and biblical principles in any way violates the constitutional order or poses a threat to state security," she emphasizes.

    With regard to the testimony of witnesses Ivanov and Kokhalskaya, the defendant says: "Witness Kokhalskaya, testifying before the Investigative Committee, claimed that I was a member of the Tolyatti LRO. During her testimony in court, she clarified that she did not understand the difference between a legal entity and just a believer, for her it is one and the same. She could not document my connection with the LRO."

    Kozhevnikova says that the witness Ivanov pretended to be a man interested in the Bible: "Witness Ivanov deceived for several years, posing as another person whom he trusted."

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    February 28, 2024 Prosecutor requested punishment Art. 282.2 (2)

    The prosecutor requests 4 years of imprisonment and 1 year of restriction of liberty for Elena Kozhevnikova.

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    March 4, 2024 In the courtroom Art. 282.2 (2) First Instance Sentence Tapping and hidden surveillance Suspended sentence Final statement

    "History has repeatedly shown that Jehovah's Witnesses are not guilty of what they are accused of. It is not clear why they do not want to admit this, "Elena Kozhevnikova makes her last speech.