Anton Ostapenko with his wife Natalia outside the courthouse on the day of the verdict. Sharypovo. 25 October 2021

Unjust Verdicts

A Court in the Krasnoyarsk Territory Gave Anton Ostapenko, One of Jehovah's Witnesses from Sharypovo, Six Years and Three Months Suspended for Talking About the Bible

Krasnoyarsk Territory

On October 25, 2021, the Sharypovsky City Court of the Krasnoyarsk Territory found 30-year-old Anton Ostapenko guilty of extremism and sentenced him to six years and three months of suspended sentence with a probation period of for years and one and a half years of additional restrictions. His fault is the discussion of the Bible with friends.

On the day of the announcement of the verdict, about 80 of Anton's co-religionists came to the courthouse to support the believer, since he was facing a harsh term. Although there are no victims in the case, the prosecutor asked the court to appoint a peaceful citizen accused of organizing extremist activities to 8 years in prison in a general regime colony.

In his last word, Anton Ostapenko did not plead guilty to extremism and told the court: “I have always tried to do everything as it should be in our state. I am a peaceful believer who professes his religion in the way it happens all over the world and does not contradict the laws of our country. Together with others, I pray to Jehovah God, sing songs of praise to our heavenly Father, read the Bible and study it with other believers. "

Earlier, Christian convictions did not allow Anton to take up arms, therefore, at a draft age, he underwent alternative civilian service, working in a boarding school for the elderly and disabled. For his personal contribution to the development of the institution, he received gratitude from the management.

The criminal prosecution of Anton Ostapenko began in April 2019, when mass searches were carried out in Sharypovo in the apartments of citizens suspected of professing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. Later Anton was detained. On the same day, senior investigator Yulia Fedynyak opened a criminal case against the believer for his faith under an extremist article. For 1 year and 9 months, the case was investigated by the Investigative Directorate for the Sharypovsky District of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee for the Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Republic of Khakassia, after which it was brought to court with violations. In July 2020, the Sharypovsky interdistrict prosecutor Vyacheslav Voroshilov returned the materials for further investigation. “[The case] does not meet the requirements, is not specified, there are significant contradictions... A number of circumstances... are not confirmed by the materials of the criminal case. In the course of the preliminary investigation, a large number of procedural violations were committed,” — said in the document on the return of materials to the investigator.

Ostapenko's accusation was based on transcripts of his conversations about the Bible, made on a hidden video camera in the house of one of the believers. In addition, the accusation was based on the testimony of a secret witness "Ivanov", who, as he himself stated in court, did not know Ostapenko at all. The witness for the prosecution said about the services the believer was accused of organizing: "People just gathered together and sang songs."

In court, a linguistic expert said that, according to her examination of telephone conversations, no calls or motives for prohibited and extremist actions were found in the defendant's statements. The believer himself noted: "For me, such actions are unacceptable, because I am a Christian who is required to follow the norms of morality and conduct established in the Bible."

Nevertheless, the court refused to acquit the believer. The verdict has not entered into force and can be appealed.

During the persecution, Anton spent six months in a pre-trial detention center and two months under house arrest. While in custody, he received over 1,000 letters of support. For a year and 10 months, Ostapenko has been under recognizance agreement.

Once in jail, Anton Ostapenko faced pressure. He recalls: “Daily interrogations, threats, various kinds of influence — all this was very exhausting. The state of health deteriorated due to nervousness. The hardest part was worrying about the family, as they were threatened, there was not enough information about what was happening to them. "

17 Jehovah's Witnesses are being persecuted in the Krasnoyarsk Territory, 7 of them are already being heard in court. Believers from Krasnoyarsk and Minusinsk, Andrey Stupnikov and Dmitriy Maslov, were convicted for their Christian beliefs.

The European Court of Human Rights has stated: "It is undeniable that the joint study and discussion of liturgical texts by members of a religious group of Jehovah's Witnesses is a recognized form of professing [their] religion during worship and teaching."

Case of Ostapenko in Sharypovo

Case History
In April 2019, investigator Yulia Fedynyak opened a criminal case against the power plant driver Anton Ostapenko. Talking about the Bible was equated with organizing extremist activities. Ostapenko was sent to a pre-trial detention center for six months, after which he was transferred to house arrest, and later to recognizance not to leave. After 1 year and 9 months, the case was transferred to the Sharypovsky City Court for consideration by judge Inga Gavritskaya. During the hearings, transcripts of Anton’s prayers were read out, which formed the basis of his accusation. The secret witness for the prosecution “Ivanov” stated that he did not know the defendant personally, and at the services the believers “just gather and sing songs.” The prosecutor asked the court to sentence the believer to 8 years in a penal colony. In October 2021, the court found Ostapenko guilty and sentenced him to 6 years and 3 months of probation with a probation period of 4 years and 1.5 years of additional restrictions. In April 2022, the appellate court upheld this decision.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Krasnoyarsk Territory
Locality:
Sharypovo
Suspected of:
[to be determined]
Court case number:
11902040014000013
Initiated:
April 19, 2019
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Investigative Department of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Krasnoyarsk Territory
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-58/2021
Court:
Шарыповский городской суд Красноярского края
Judge:
Инга Гаврицкая
Case History