In the photo: Sergey Verhoturov

Unjust Verdicts

A Nizhny Novgorod court sentenced Sergey Verkhoturov to six years of suspended sentence for reading the Bible

Nizhegorod Region

On March 5, 2021, Denis Kiselyov, a Prioksky District Court judge, found Sergey Verkhoturov guilty of organizing the activities of a banned organization and sentenced him to a six-year suspended sentence with a four-year probationary period. The believer is insisting he is completely innocent.

Although there is not a single victim in the case, the prosecutor recommended that the court impose a sentence of 7 years in prison and another 1 year of restriction of liberty on Verkhoturov. The verdict has not entered into force and can be appealed.

Speaking in court with the last word, Sergey voiced the reason for his criminal prosecution: “I am being tried for my religious beliefs, for my belief that no harm should be done to people, society, or the state. I am being judged for what I have encouraged and will continue to encourage all people to love each other, avoid any violence, and strengthen family relationships."

For 19 months Sergey has been banned from certain actions: he is forbidden to leave his home after 21:00, use communications and communicate with other citizens.

On July 16 and 17, 2019, in Nizhny Novgorod and the city of Pavlovo (Nizhny Novgorod region), searches were carried out in several houses of believers at once. In total, over 30 families and individual believers were affected. The criminal case against Verkhoturov was initiated on June 4, 2019 under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. He was investigated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia in the Nizhny Novgorod region for 1 year and 2 months.

A year before the initiation of the case, on the basis of a court order, the police obtained the right to wiretap Sergei Verkhoturov's telephone conversations for 90 days. On July 30, 2020, the case went to court.

Law enforcers in the Nizhny Novgorod region, under the guise of fighting extremism, are actively prosecuting Jehovah's Witnesses. They consider peaceful religious services, during which believers read the Bible and pray, as a "crime". In total, criminal cases have been initiated in the region for their faith against 14 Jehovah's Witnesses, including the wife of Sergey Verkhoturov, Victoriya (participation in the activities of a banned organization). 10 cases are under investigation, 4 have been transferred to the court.

Russian and foreign leaders and organizations unanimously condemn the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. The Russian government has repeatedly stated that the decisions of the Russian courts on the liquidation and prohibition of organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses "do not assess the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses, do not contain a restriction or prohibition to practice the above teachings individually." According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Jehovah's Witnesses have the right to practice their religion both individually and in groups.

Case of Verhoturov in Nizhniy Novgorod

Case History
In the summer of 2019, security forces in the Nizhny Novgorod region staged mass raids on local Jehovah’s Witnesses on the basis of their religion. One of them was Sergey Verkhoturov. A year earlier, his telephone conversations began to be tapped. In June 2019, an investigator of the Ministry of Internal Affairs opened a criminal case against the believer for organizing the activities of an extremist organization, after he found out that he had discussed texts from the Bible with friends. A few months later, Sergey’s wife, Victoria, was also accused of extremism for her faith. In September 2020, the court began considering the Verkhoturov case. The prosecutor requested 7 years in prison for the believer. In March 2021, the court sentenced him to 6 years of probation with a probation period of 4 years. The appeal, and then the cassation, upheld this verdict. In September 2023, Sergey was released on parole.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Nizhegorod Region
Nizhny Novgorod
Court case number:
June 4, 2019
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Department of Internal Affairs of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia in the Nizhny Novgorod Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-19/2021 (1-251/2020)
Приокский районный суд г. Нижний Новгород
Денис Киселёв
Case History