In the photo: Natalia and Valery Kriger on the day of sentencing, Birobidzhan

Unjust Verdicts

In Birobidzhan, Nataliya Kriger Received 2.5 Years of Suspended Term for Reading the Bible

Jewish Autonomous Area

On July 30, 2021, the judge of the Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region, Vasilina Bezotecheskikh, sentenced 43-year-old Nataliya Kriger to two and a half years in prison for participation in the activities of a banned community—this is how the investigation interprets reading and discussing the Bible with friends.

The verdict has not entered into force and can be appealed. The believer insists on her complete innocence.

Although there is not a single victim in the case, the prosecutor asked the court to impose a sentence of 4 years in prison and 2 years of restriction of freedom on the believer, with the obligation to report twice a month at the FSIN supervisory institution.

When Nataliya was only a year old, her mother died, and the girl ended up in an orphanage. At the age of 6, her grandmother took little Nataliya to live with her. Many years later, due to a hip fracture, Nataliya's elderly grandmother stopped walking. The believer took care of her grandmother until her death in February 2020.

Speaking in court with her last word, Nataliya Kriger recalled how her grandmother was able to instill in her the biblical norms of morality, thanks to which she completely changed: “I was a very naughty child even in my teens and caused considerable difficulties. But from the very childhood, noticing any injustice or humiliation, I reacted sharply. During my school years, I went to the karate section in order to protect myself. Like most teenagers, I was influenced by peers: I began to smoke, get drunk and swear heavily. Even my relatives and friends did not trust me.”

“I have learned to express tender feelings for my grandmother, to hug her, and not to shout at her and be insolent to her,” Nataliya continues. “The Bible taught me to treat her with great love, kindness, trembling ... I think she would be very surprised now that I'm on trial for extremism."

In May 2018, the house of the Kriger family was searched. Then a criminal case was opened against Nataliya's husband, Valeriy Kriger. Two years after these events, in February 2020, Denis Yankin, an investigator of the FSB of Russia for the Jewish Autonomous Region, opened a criminal case against Nataliya. Then the believer was placed on recognizance agreement.

The investigation lasted 6 months, and on August 19, 2020, the case was referred to the Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region. At the time of admission to the court, the case consisted of more than 30 volumes.

One of the prosecution witnesses was police officer Yuliya Zvereva, who also testified in a number of other cases against Jehovah's Witnesses from Birobidzhan: Svetlana Monis, Anastasiya Sycheva, Tatyana Zagulina and Konstantin Guzev, whom the court sentenced to suspended sentences.

A total of 23 Jehovah's Witnesses from the Jewish Autonomous Region have been prosecuted. Many of them have already been convicted, others are still awaiting a court decision on their cases.

The groundlessness of the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses on the basis of religion has been repeatedly emphasized by Russian and foreign experts. In May 2021, the association of former prisoners of the Dachau concentration camp (Lagergemeinschaft Dachau) sent an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin condemning the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses.

The Kriger case in Birobidzhan

Case History
In May 2018, the home of a Birobidzhan resident, Natalya Kriger, was searched by law enforcement officers. Three days earlier, a criminal case was initiated against her husband Valeriy for extremism, and in February 2020, the FSB initiated a criminal case against Natalia herself. She was accused of continuing the activity of an extremist organization. In August 2020, the believer’s case went to court. The prosecutor requested a sentence of 4 years in prison for her, and in July 2021 the court gave the believer a 2.5-year suspended sentence. The court of appeal upheld the verdict, but in August 2022, the court of cassation sent the case back for a new appeal, which, in turn, returned the case for review to the court of first instance to another judge. He also gave the believer a 2.5-year suspended sentence. The court of appeal upheld this verdict.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Jewish Autonomous Area
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, she committed deliberate actions related to the resumption and continuation of the activities of the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in the city of Birobidzhan
Court case number:
February 12, 2020
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
UFSB of Russia in the Jewish Autonomous Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-37/2023 (1-713/2022; 1-46/2021; 1-464/2020)
Биробиджанский районный суд ЕАО
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Куликов Александр
Case History