Case of Filippov in Razdolnoye

Case history

In the small Far Eastern village of Razdolnoye, several pensioners suddenly found themselves in the spotlight of the Investigative Committee because they profess the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In 2017, then 74-year-old Vladimir Filippov, a former career military man, talked about his faith with a certain B.N. Ulyankin, who portrayed an interest in the Bible. Since then, the believer has been put under surveillance, searched three times (including without a court order) and even beaten. Due to stress, Vladimir’s wife suffered attacks of hypertension. In May 2020, the case was referred to the court, and in December the hearings reached the finish line: the state prosecutor recommended that the court sentence the pensioner to 6.5 years in prison. On March 15, 2021, the judge of the Nadezhdinskiy District Court of the Primorsky Territory, Diana Merzlyakova, sentenced the believer to 6 years of suspended imprisonment with a probation period of 4 years and with restriction of liberty for 1 year. The Primorsky Regional Court upheld the verdict.

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    August 18, 2017

    Operational-search measures begin against Vladimir Filippov and other believers in the village of Razdolnoye (a secret video recording of a divine service, an audio recording of a conversation about the Bible with a certain B.N. Ulyankin, depicting a spiritual interest). Later, on the basis of audio and video recordings, it is concluded that Filippov is allegedly the head of the banned organization, and the other participants are participants.

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    February 26, 2018

    Specialist Olga Averina is preparing a religious study, including on the topics that were discussed at the liturgical meeting on November 18, 2017: goodness, honesty and moral purity. In the records of Christian worship, the religious scholar, in particular, finds an incentive to be diligent in studying the Bible and serving God.

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    July 16, 2018

    Senior investigator D. A. Shevchenko initiates a criminal case under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation against "unidentified persons". Later in this case, the Nadezhdinskiy District Court will convict a local resident, G. G. Bubnov, for believing in God.

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    July 19, 2018

    A search is being conducted in Vladimir Filippov's apartment and garage with the use of brute physical force. During the assault, law enforcement officers hit 75-year-old Vladimir Filippov in the face. With a cry: "Lie down!" his hands are twisted behind his back. The search is conducted by investigator A. A. Sendzyuk. Bibles in various translations, personal publications and electronic equipment were seized. The process takes more than six hours, after which believers Vladimir and Lyubov Filippov, as well as their daughter, are taken for interrogation, which lasts until midnight.

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    August 1, 2018
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    February 20, 2019

    Expert Nadezhda Oleshkevich prepared the conclusion of a psychological, linguistic and religious examination. In conclusion, a brief description of the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, taken by an expert from the Internet, is given. The expert also comes to the unscientific conclusion that "the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses are quite original ... they regard Jesus Christ not as one of the persons of God, but as the first creation of God."

    It concludes with unsubstantiated allegations that Jehovah's Witnesses "view any state as an instrument of Satan" and are "marked by hostility toward all."

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    July 1, 2019

    Senior investigator Denis Shevchenko initiates a second criminal case under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, this time against an "unidentified person".

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    July 9, 2019

    A judge of the Nadezhdinskiy District Court issues a new order to allow a search of Vladimir Filippov's home.

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    August 15, 2019

    Under the pretext of a "population census", senior investigator D. A. Shevchenko comes to the Filippovs' apartment and conducts a second search. Electronic devices were seized again. Due to the rude treatment of the authorities, Vladimir's wife, Lyubov, suffers a hypertensive crisis for the second time and is forced to call an ambulance.

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    January 22, 2020

    A series of searches in the villages of Razdolnoye and Timofeevka. Including Vladimir Filippov - for the third time, on the basis of another decision of the Nadezhdinskiy District Court of 01/22/2020.

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    March 5, 2020
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    March 18, 2020

    Investigator Denis Shevchenko is prosecuting Vladimir Filippov as a defendant in a previously initiated criminal case under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. After that, the investigator announces the end of the investigative actions.

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    March 30, 2020

    Vladimir Filippov submits a motion to extend the deadline for familiarization with the case materials until April 14, 2020.

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    April 24, 2020

    The believer signs the protocol of acquaintance with the materials of the criminal case.

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    May 19, 2020

    The case is referred to the Nadezhdinskiy District Court of Primorsky Krai.

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    June 22, 2020

    The hearing on the merits of the charges is postponed until July 14, 2020.

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    July 14, 2020 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    In the Nadezhdinskiy District Court of Primorsky Krai, the defendant gives his testimony in the case. At the next hearing, Judge Diana Merzlyakova appoints the beginning of the debate of the parties.

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    October 15, 2020

    At the hearing, a video recording of the Christian meeting from 11/18/2017 is being viewed. Covert footage captured prayers, songs, and a 10-minute talk on how to show kindness, based on the biblical book of Galatians (6:10). The book "About People Who Never Part with the Bible", recognized by the investigator as material evidence of Filippov's guilt, was studied. In it, the author, religious scholar, Professor S. I. Ivanenko explains how Jehovah's Witnesses actually relate to the authorities, family and adherents of other religions, which refutes the speculations of the expert N. A. Oleshkevich, gleaned from the Internet.

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    December 14, 2020

    The defendant testifies to the court. He notes that "the investigation did not provide any evidence that I committed at least one of the actions listed as extremist in paragraph 1 of Article 1 of the Federal Law "On Countering Extremist Activity". And what is extremist activity? This is an exclusively illegal activity. But praying to God is not a violation of the law. Learning Bible instruction is not breaking the law. Talking to other people who express a desire to speak on spiritual topics is not a violation of the law."

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    December 29, 2020 Prosecutor requested punishment Final statement

    State prosecutor Maria Koval recommends that judge Diana Merzlyakova sentence of imprisonment for a period of 6 years and 6 months in a penal colony sentence to the 77-year-old pensioner. For another 2 years, the prosecutor wants to prohibit him from participating in public organizations, as well as to order him to appear monthly for registration for 1 year, not to leave home at night, not to visit places of public events, not to change his place of residence and not to leave the Nadezhdinsky municipal district without the consent of supervisory bodies.

    A date for announcing the verdict has not yet been set.

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    January 27, 2021 Final statement First Instance Sentence

    The hearing is postponed to March 12.

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    March 12, 2021 Final statement

    Vladimir Filippov speaks in court with the last word, proving that he has not committed any crime and is far from extremist aspirations. "I did not commit a crime, but only exercised my constitutional right to believe in Jehovah God and live in harmony with my religious beliefs. This is not an organization of the activities of an extremist organization," the believer declares.

    The court schedules the announcement of the verdict on March 15, 2021.

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    March 15, 2021 First Instance Sentence

    Judge of the Nadezhdinsky District Court of Primorsky Krai Diana Merzlyakova finds 77-year-old Vladimir Filippov guilty of organizing extremist activities and sentences him to 6 years of suspended imprisonment with a probationary period of 4 years and restriction of liberty for 1 year. A believer is also deprived of the right to engage in activities related to participation in public organizations for a period of 3 years.

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    May 14, 2021 Court of Appeal

    The Primorsky Regional Court in Vladivostok upholds the sentence against Vladimir Filippov.