In the photo from left to right, from top to bottom: Konstantin Bazhenov, Alexey Budenchuk, Felix Makhammadiyev, Alexey Miretsky, Roman Gridasov, Gennady German

Served Sentences

From 2 to 3.5 years in prison for faith. In Saratov, a second sentence against Jehovah's Witnesses with real terms was handed down

Saratov Region

On September 19, 2019, Dmitry Larin, judge of the Leninsky District Court of Saratov, sentenced six residents of the city to various terms of imprisonment based on their religion. Such a harsh sentence for faith in Jehovah was the second in the history of modern Russia.

The Leninsky District Court of Saratov ruled to sentence Konstantin Bazhenov and Aleksey Budenchuk to 3 years and 6 months in prison, Felix Makhammadiyev to 3 years, Roman Gridasov, Gennady German and Alexei Miretsky to 2 years. Also, all were additionally sentenced to a ban on holding senior positions in public organizations for a period of 5 years and restriction of freedom for 1 year. All of them are charged under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (organization of activities of an extremist organization). The defendants were taken into custody in the courtroom to be sent to a pre-trial detention center.

The court ignored the fact that in the 30 volumes of the criminal case there is not a single victim and not a single negative consequence of the alleged "extremist activity" of the defendants. The entire logic of the prosecution was built on the speculative thesis that belief in God is "an extension of the activities of an extremist organization." As a consequence of this approach, instead of searching for and proving the guilt of the defendants, the prosecutor's office was busy "proving" that they practiced a particular religion, despite the fact that no religion is banned in Russia. Having "proved" the religion of the defendants, which they did not hide anyway, the investigation proposed to automatically interpret this fact as the activity of a banned legal entity. The absurdity of this logic did not embarrass the court, and it equated peaceful believers with dangerous criminals.

Earlier, Konstantin Bazhenov, Aleksey Budenchuk and Felix Makhammadiev had already spent almost a year in a pre-trial detention center. All the convicts are ordinary residents of Saratov, not previously convicted, all have families. Two of Alexei Budenchuk's children are still in school. Konstantin Bazhenov is a bricklayer by profession, Felix Makhammadiev is a hairdresser, Roman Gridasov is a construction technologist, Gennady German is an artist, Alexey Miretsky is a candidate of economic sciences. In the last word, the believers quoted the Bible and noted that they did not hold a grudge against the persecutors.

The verdict in the case of six Saratov residents was the sixth conviction for practicing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses in modern Russia. Prior to that, Dennis Christensen, Sergey Skrynnikov, Alexander Solovyov, Valery Moskalenko, as well as 16 believers in Taganrog were sentenced to various punishments. Only Dennis Christensen is currently in the colony, his complaint has been accepted for consideration by the European Court of Human Rights. The list of Russians convicted of believing in Jehovah has increased dramatically to 26 people, and the number of those imprisoned for this "crime" has increased from 1 to 7.

The defendants insist that they have nothing to do with extremism. The defense intends to appeal the unfair verdict.

Case of Bazhenov and Others in Saratov

Case history
In September 2019, Judge Dmitry Larin immediately sent 6 Saratov residents to prison for a term of 2 to 3.5 years just for reading the Bible, singing songs and praying. Since 2017, security forces have been conducting covert surveillance of believers. In the summer of 2018, their homes were searched with banned literature planted. While the investigation was underway, they had to go to a pre-trial detention center, under house arrest and under recognizance not to leave. A year later, despite the absence of victims in the case, the believers were found guilty. Upon arrival at the Orenburg colony, 5 out of 6 convicted believers were beaten by the staff of the institution. Mahammadiev was hospitalized, and the rest were placed in a punishment cell for a while. Saratov prisoners of conscience have mastered various professions in prison. In May 2020, Mahammadiev and Bazhenov were stripped of their Russian citizenship and, after their release, deported from Russia. All 6 believers have already served their sentences. In September 2022, the cassation court dismissed the complaint, and the verdict and the appellate ruling were unchanged.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Saratov Region
Locality:
Saratov
Suspected of:
according to the investigation, together with others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as “organising the activity of an extremist organisation” (with reference to the decision of the Russian Supreme Court on the liquidation of all 396 registered organisations of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Court case number:
11807630001000037
Initiated:
June 9, 2018
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Investigative Department of the Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Saratov Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-333/2019
Background