Nataliya Kriger on the day of the appeal decision outside the courthouse. Birobidzhan. November 2021

Unjust Verdicts

Appeal in Birobidzhan Approved the Sentence for Faith for Nataliya Kriger

Jewish Autonomous Area

On November 25, 2021, the Court of Jewish Autonomous Region approved the sentence of Nataliya Kriger, 43, who was sentenced to 2.5 years of suspended imprisonment and 1 year of restricted freedom for participating in the activities of an extremist organization.

On July 30, 2021 Birobidzhan District Court found Nataliya Kriger guilty after considering as a crime her presence at the worship services of Jehovah's Witnesses, although this faith is not banned in Russia. The prosecutor asked the court to send the believer to a penal colony for four years and to further restrict her freedom for two years.

Addressing the court with her last word, Nataliya said: "What did the court find extremist? That I professed religious beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses with my husband and friends. However, according to Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, everyone is guaranteed freedom of conscience, freedom of religion. . . . Only Holy Scriptures—the Bible—taught me to truly love people and genuinely care about them. Today my reputation as an honest person is tarnished."

The verdict of the appellate court went into effect, but the believer has the right to appeal it in cassation and international instances.

In 2018, Nataliya's husband, Valeriy Kriger, was also prosecuted under an extremist article. The investigation found him guilty of organizing the activities of a banned organization.

Seventeen of Jehovah's Witnesses in Birobidzhan have already been convicted for practicing their faith, and for thirteen of them the sentence has come into force. The Birobidzhan District Court is currently hearing cases on similar charges against six other believers.

On October 28 this year the Plenum of the Supreme Court of Russia ruled that collective religious services of Jehovah's Witnesses do not by themselves constitute corpus delicti under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of Russia.

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