In the photo: Larisa Artamonova

Unjust Verdicts

The Court of Appeal Toughened the Verdict for Faith to Larisa Artamonova From Birobidzhan. The Fine Is Replaced With a Suspended Sentence

Jewish Autonomous Area

On April 20, 2021, the court of the Jewish Autonomous Region, having considered the prosecutor's submission and Larisa Artamonova's complaint against the verdict, replaced a fine of 10,000 rubles for 2.5 years of probation and 1 year of restraint of liberty. She is condemned for believing in Jehovah God. The verdict entered into force.

On February 12, 2021, the judge of the Birobidzhan District Court, Vladimir Mikhalev, found Larisa Artamonova guilty of participating in the activities of an extremist organization, but imposed a penalty below the lowest - a fine. The court found it a crime that she read the Bible with her fellow believers and discussed Christian teachings. As proof of the presence of the believer at one of the religious meetings, the prosecutor's office presented a screenshot from the video, which depicts a shadow allegedly belonging to Larisa. She was not charged with any real crimes. Nevertheless, the prosecution asked to send the believer to a colony for 4 years.

“Who have I hurt? Who suffered from my actions? Where are the victims? No one knows!”- said Larisa Artamonova in court before the decision was made.

“The indictment says that Jehovah's Witnesses 'incited religious discord by determining the superiority or, on the contrary, inferiority of a person, based on his religious affiliation.' However, what confirms these actions, who exactly committed them and which court of the Russian Federation established this is not the case in the verdict, - she said. - Neither the court of first instance, nor I have found a description of my criminal acts in the criminal case”.

A believer can appeal against the verdict in cassation, as well as in international instances.

“At first glance, a suspended sentence is a rather mild measure. But it only seems so. The suspended sentence at any time can be replaced with a real one, if law enforcement officers again consider the discussion of the Bible a violation of the law. Jehovah's Witnesses do not cease to be believers after being sentenced. Therefore, a suspended sentence is a form of suppression of the fundamental right to faith,” said Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a representative of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, on the verdict.

The criminal prosecution of Larisa Artamonova began shortly after the special operation of the FSB, codenamed “Judgment Day,” in May 2018, in which 150 security officials took part. The investigation against the believer was conducted by the same security official who initiated the persecution of 15 more fellow believers of Larisa - D. Yankin from the Investigation Department of the FSB of Russia for the Jewish Autonomous Region.

Due to her recognizance not to leave, Larisa Artamonova was restricted in her right to move freely for more than a year and a half. In addition, the believer was included in the list of terrorists and extremists of Rosfinmonitoring, so all her bank accounts are blocked, and her good name is defamed.

To date, 23 people have been persecuted for their faith in God in the Jewish Autonomous Region, including 12 women and 11 men.

Case of Artamonova in Birobidzhan

Case History
In the life of Larisa Artamonova, a native of Birobidzhan, there were many difficulties: children’s psychological trauma due to the violent death of her father, the child’s illness, her own health problems. In September 2019, she faced reprisals because of her belief in Jehovah God — investigator D. Yankin opened a criminal case against Larisa under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. He believed that the woman had worked with others to spread the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The case in the Birobidzhan District Court was considered by Vladimir Mikhalev. He sentenced Artamonova to a fine of 10,000 rubles. Deputy Prosecutor A. Vyalkov filed an appeal with the court with a request to toughen the sentence and send the believer to a colony for 4 years. In February 2021, the Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region, having toughened the sentence, imposed a sentence of 2.5 years probation and 1 year of restriction of freedom. The cassation court upheld this decision. In June 2022, the believer’s punishment was canceled and her conviction was cleared.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Jewish Autonomous Area
Suspected of:
According to the investigation she took part in ”preparation and carrying out the functioning of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ preaching activities and spreading this teaching”
Court case number:
September 25, 2019
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigation Office of Russian Federal Security Office for the Jewish autonomous region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-21/2021 (1-175/2020)
Биробиджанский районный суд ЕАО
Case History