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Criminal trial

In Kamchatka, a judge let slip what he saw as a crime of believers

Kamchatka Territory

On December 4, 2019, in the Vilyuchinsk City Court, according to the transcript of the hearing in the case of the Popovs, Judge Aleksandr Ishchenko called "extremist statements" the mention of the fact that in World War II Catholics and Protestants from some European countries shot at their fellow believers from other countries.

Judge Ishchenko became nervous the day before, when the court began to get acquainted with the watchtower Society's documentaries and feature films seized during searches of believers. The judge repeatedly drew attention to the "foreign" origin of the videos, the nationality of the participants in the films, the sounding English speech and geographical places. When the film began, in which the father ties balloons to the field so that his children can imagine the size of Noah's Ark, Judge Ishchenko began to worry that he might be accused of promoting the "American way of life."

Judge Ishchenko's nervous tension reached its peak on December 4. When watching a film about the history of Jehovah's Witnesses in the twentieth century, he lost patience with the words of the announcer (literally): "In 1939, when World War II broke out, almost every religious group sent its parishioners to war. Catholics from France and America killed Catholics from Germany and Italy, and Protestants from England and America killed Protestants from Germany. Jehovah's Witnesses have made it clear that they do not support this bloodshed." Hearing this, Judge Ishchenko, according to the transcript of the hearing, suddenly declared:

"I'm interrupting watching this movie. Criticism of other religions begins, exaltation of one over the other. Interrupt the movie! Write it all down in the protocol. [...] The court stops broadcasting it because it contains obvious extremist statements against other religions!"

The defense made official objections to the actions of the presiding judge at the hearing. (According to the official clarification of the Russian Supreme Court, "criticism of other religions" is not extremism.)

Nevertheless, the next day, when studying the book "The Secret of Family Happiness", Judge Ishchenko, having learned that the copyright to the book belongs to a legal entity registered in the United States, expressed surprise that such a publication turned out to be in Vilyuchinsk, a closed territorial entity. (Later, after the defense's objection, the court recognized that the production of publications abroad is not a sign of extremist activity.)

As a matter of principle, Jehovah's Witnesses do not take up arms, obeying the covenant of Jesus Christ: "Put the sword in its scabbard! Whoever takes up the sword will perish by the sword" (Bible, Gospel of Matthew, chapter 26, verse 52).

It is widely known that Jehovah's Witnesses, as a religious belief group, did not support the Third Reich. Not only in Germany, but also in other countries, believers were severely persecuted for conscientious objection to military service. In the Russian Federation, Jehovah's Witnesses enjoy the constitutional right to alternative civilian service. Unfortunately, in some cases, the staff of the draft board believe that young Jehovah's Witnesses are "extremists", which means they should serve like everyone else, with weapons in their hands.

Case of the Popovs in Vilyuchinsk

Case History
In July 2018, mass searches took place in Kamchatka. Armed FSB officers arrested Mikhail and Yelena Popov from Vilyuchinsk. The couple spent 11 and 5 days in the temporary detention facility, respectively. The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against the Popovs under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. According to the prosecution, the couple organized the activities of an extremist organization and involved local residents in it. This is how the investigation interpreted participation in worship services and discussion of the Bible with several people who feigned interest in it. The case went to court in September 2019. At one of the hearings, Judge Aleksandr Ishchenko [called] (/en/news/2019/12/1464.html) “extremist statements” a reference to the fact that in World War II Catholics and Protestants from some European countries shot at their fellow believers from other countries. In February 2020, the court softened the article of the charges and imposed fines on the believers: Mikhail 350 thousand rubles, and Yelena 300 thousand rubles. The appeal reduced the amount to 250 thousand rubles each.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Kamchatka Territory
Suspected of:
according to the investigation he participated in religious services, which is interpreted as organising and involving others in the activities 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:
July 25, 2018
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigative Department of the Closed Administrative Territorial Unit of the city of Vilyuchinsk of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Kamchatka Territory
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
Case History