Photo source: WavebreakMediaMicro / stock.adobe.com

Criminal Investigation and Trial

The newly created Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction found the detention of Jehovah's Witnesses in Kemerovo unjustified

Kemerovo Region

On December 23, 2019, the Eighth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction overturned the appeal decision of the Kemerovo Regional Court, which upheld the 6-month extension of the period of detention of Kemerovo residents Sergey Britvin and Vadim Levchuk. Although the believers have already served this term in a pre-trial detention center, it is important that it is recognized as illegal. 

Here's how events unfolded: 

  • 13.06.2019

    The Berezovsky City Court, based on the results of the preliminary hearing, extends the period of detention of Sergey Britvin and Vadim Levchuk in custody for another 6 months, that is, until December 3, 2019. By that time, both had already been behind bars for almost 11 months. 

  • 17.06.2019

    The lawyer is filing an appeal with the Kemerovo Regional Court against the decision of the Berezovsky City Court of 13.06.2019 to extend the period of detention for Britvin and Levchuk until December 3, 2019 . 

  • 19.07.2019

    The Kemerovo Regional Court refuses to satisfy the lawyer's appeal filed on 17.06.2019. 

  • 30.07.2019

    The lawyer submits a cassation appeal to the Presidium of the Kemerovo Regional Court against the decision of the Berezovsky City Court of 13.06.2019 and the decision of the Kemerovo Regional Court of 19.07.2019. 

  • 19.08.2019

    The judge of the  Kemerovo Regional Court refuses to transfer the cassation appeal dated 30.07.2019 to the Presidium of the Regional Court. 

  • 12.09.2019

    The lawyer submits a cassation to the higher Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. 

  • 12.11.2019

    The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation satisfies the cassation appeal. Judge of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation Vasily Zykin, having studied the circumstances of the case, notes that the decision on the 6-month extension of the period of detention of Kemerovo residents Sergey Britvin and Vadim Levchuk "cannot be recognized as lawful and justified." The Supreme Court refers the cassation appeal for consideration to the newly created Eighth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction (located in the city of Kemerovo). 

  • 27.11.2019

    The Berezovsky City Court extends the period of detention of Sergey Britvin and Vadim Levchuk for another 3 months, that is, until March 3, 2020. 

  • 02.12.2019

    The lawyer is filing an appeal with the Kemerovo Regional Court against the decision of the Berezovsky City Court of 27.11.2019 to extend the period of detention for Britvin and Levchuk until March 3, 2020. 

  • 23.12.2019

    The Kemerovo Regional Court changes the decision of the Berezovsky City Court of 27.11.2019 (on a 3-month extension of the period of detention of believers) and assigns them house arrest. On the same day, the Eighth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction cancels the appeal decision of the Kemerovo Regional Court of 19.07.2019 (on a 6-month extension of the period of detention of believers) and returns the case to the Kemerovo Regional Court for the appeal stage.   

  • 25.12.2019

    Late in the evening, believers leave the pre-trial detention center after 521 days in custody. 

Believers do not admit their guilt, insist that they are simply practicing their religion - and this is not prohibited by law. They cannot be charged with the victims or the damage caused. 

Cassation courts of general jurisdiction are an innovation in Russian legal proceedings. The cassation courts of general jurisdiction began their work on October 1, 2019. A total of 9 cassation courts of general jurisdiction were established in Saratov, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Krasnodar, Pyatigorsk, Samara, Chelyabinsk, Kemerovo and Vladivostok. 

Case of Levchuk and Britvin in Beryozovsky

Case history
In January 2021, the sentence came into force for two miners from the city of Berezovsky - 4 years each in a general regime colony due to the fact that they profess the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Both have families. At the time of Vadim Levchuk’s arrest, his son was a minor. Sergey Britvin has a disability group II. The persecution began in July 2018, when a wave of searches took place in the city, after which the Central District Court of Kemerovo placed both in a pre-trial detention center. While the investigation and trial were going on, the believers spent almost 2 years in prison. The case of Britvin and Levchuk was investigated by the FSB. No casualties or damage were identified. The believers were found guilty of organizing the activities of an extremist organization only because they communicated with friends on spiritual topics. The state prosecutor recommended that the court appoint 6.5 years in prison for each. The believers pleaded not guilty, insisting that practicing their religion is not prohibited by law. On December 30, 2021, they were released from the colony, having served their sentence in full.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Kemerovo Region
Locality:
Beryozovsky
Suspected of:
according to the investigation he participated in religious services, which is interpreted as participation in 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:
11807320001000380
Initiated:
July 19, 2018
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Investigative Department of the Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Kemerovo Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-139/2019
Court:
Берёзовский городской суд Кемеровской области
Judge:
Ирина Воробьёва
Background