Photo: Sergey Verhoturov

Unjust Verdicts

Appeal in Nizhniy Novgorod Upheld the Verdict for Faith against Sergey Verkhoturov

Nizhegorod Region

On June 16, 2021, the judge of the Nizhny Novgorod Regional Court, Ksenia Chipiga, rejected Sergey Verkhoturov's appeal against an unjust sentence for faith. It went into force.

The believer still insists on his innocence. He has the right to appeal against the verdict in cassation, as well as in international instances.

On March 5, 2021, the judge of the Priokskiy District Court, Denis Kiselev, found Sergey Verkhoturov guilty of organizing the activities of a banned community and sentenced him to 6 years of suspended prison term with a probationary period of 4 years. The prosecutor requested 7 years in prison for the believer and another 1 year of restriction of freedom.

Sergei Verkhoturov was detained on July 17, 2019 during searches under the sanction of investigator Aliya Chesebiyeva. Earlier, back in May 2018, he was under surveillance—the police received the right to wiretap his phone and view pages on social networks for 90 days. However, the day after the arrest, the Nizhniy Novgorod District Court refused to arrest the believer and ordered his immediate release from custody in the courtroom. He was chosen a milder measure of restraint—a ban on certain actions.

Together with Sergey, his wife Victoria is also under criminal prosecution. The investigation accuses her of participating in the activities of an extremist organization.

At one of the trial hearings, portions of video recordings were viewed that discussed the behavior of Christians during ethnic, religious and political conflicts. Sergey emphasized: “Believers learn to show love for all people, obey the authorities, not to pay back with evil for evil, and to forgive others. All this is odd for an extremist organization.”

During his testimony, the defendant stated that he did not consider himself guilty of committing a crime under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. “This is an unfounded accusation that insults my dignity,” he said. It was thanks to his faith that Sergey became a respectable citizen of his country, abandoned bad habits and stopped showing aggression towards others. “I am a peacemaker and I am proud of it,” he stressed.

Totally 15 Jehovah's Witnesses have been prosecuted for their faith in the Nizhniy Novgorod Region. Cases against 10 believers are under investigation, and 4 more believers are already at the dock in the court of first instance.

Russian and international human rights activists unanimously condemn the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses and urge them to stop it immediately. The letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation says: “Members of a liquidated organization can independently practice a religious faith, including as part of religious groups that do not require registration. During the consideration of the case [in the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation], neither the legitimacy of the religious beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses, nor the ways of expressing them were assessed.”

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