In the photo: Aleksandr Nikolayev with his wife and sons

Unjust Verdicts

First Prison Term After the Plenum Ruling: One of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Aleksandr Nikolayev, Sentenced to 2.5 Years in Prison

Krasnodar Territory

On December 23, 2021, Nikolay Surmach, a judge of the Abinsk District Court of the Krasnodar Territory, found 48-year-old Aleksandr Nikolayev guilty of participating in the activities of an extremist organization and sentenced him to 2 years and 6 months in a general regime colony.

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

Although there is not a single victim in the case and all that is imputed to Nikolayev is one attendance at a divine service with reading from the book Genesis about the birth of sons and a daughter for Jacob, the prosecutor asked the court to impose a sentence on the believer in the form of imprisonment for 3 years in a general regime colony, 3 years of ban on activities for the organization of religious associations, and 1 year of restriction of freedom.

Aleksandr Nikolayev has many children. He and his wife Evgeniya have three adult sons and two adopted daughters of school age. In April 2021, a search was carried out in the house of Aleksandr Nikolayev and his family. The FSB personnel, accompanied by riot police, seized books, electronic devices, children's drawings, and a postcard with a Bible scripture.

The believer learnt that on March 31, 2021, the Investigative Department for the Abinsk District opened a criminal case against him under an extremist article. Nikolayev was interrogated at the Investigative Committee and released on recognizance agreement. Almost six months later, on September 30, 2021, Aleksandr was again summoned for interrogation, but instead he was detained and sent to a pre-trial detention center by a court decision.

On July 16, 2021, the case was transferred to the Abinsky District Court of the Krasnodar Territory. During the trial, the defense side discovered a falsification of the indictment, as well as forgery of some case materials.

Since April 2020, the Abinsk District Court has brought convictions to eight Jehovah's Witnesses, including two women, Anna Yermak and Olga Ponomareva. All of them were sentenced to real prison terms, four are already serving their sentences. The maximum term: 7 and a half years in prison, was passed to 64-year-old Aleksandr Ivshin, who is Aleksandr Nikolayev's father-in-law.

“It is paradoxical that after the decision of the Plenum of the Supreme Court, which sorted out the issue and decided to stop the persecution of ordinary believers simply for their religious beliefs, a district court continues to stamp guilty verdicts, ignoring the binding nature of the decision of the Plenum,” Yaroslav Sivulskiy, representative of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, commented on the verdict. “Two women received absurd prison sentences: 5 and 4.5 years. We hope that these unfair sentences will be overturned on appeal.”

Vladimir Ryakhovskiy, a member of the Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation, considers it a mistake to believe that repression will force Jehovah's Witnesses to renounce their religious beliefs. The human rights activist notes: “A true believer will never be silent, he will always talk about his views. Therefore, in this sense, Jehovah's Witnesses cannot be silenced. As they conducted divine services before, so they will conduct them in the future. Their entire history testifies to this. They are the only ones among all religious denominations that did not support the Third Reich. They were the first to be persecuted by the Nazis in the 1930s in Germany. Similar persecutions [of Jehovah's Witnesses] took place in the Soviet Union under Stalin.”

On October 28, 2021, the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation clarified that the divine services of Jehovah's Witnesses, their joint rituals and ceremonies do not in themselves constitute a crime under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, despite the liquidation of their legal entities.

The case of Nikolayev in Kholmskaya

Case History
In April 2021, FSB officers, accompanied by riot police, came to search the home of Nikolayev couple who are the parents of five children, two of whom are adopted. Shortly before this, the Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case against Aleksandr Nikolayev for participation in extremist activities for reading the Bible at a meeting. In July 2021, the case went to trial. Two months later, the believer was sent to a pre-trial detention center, and in December of the same year, the court sentenced the believer to two and a half years in prison. At the time the sentence came into force, Nikolayev had served more than half of his sentence in the detention center. The believer was taken to the penal colony in March 2023 and the next month he asked a court for parole, but was refused. At the end of July 2023, the court of cassation upheld the sentence, lifted the additional restrictions after release. Nikolayev was released from the penal colony in September 2023.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Krasnodar Territory
Suspected of:
"through information and telecommunication networks ... entered into conversations and religious discussions, participated in collective discussions of the content of religious books "Jehovah's Witnesses", including the so-called "Holy Scripture" (Bible) ... emphasizing that these books contain true knowledge of God" (from the verdict of the court)
Court case number:
March 31, 2021
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Krasnodar Territory
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
Абинский районный суд Краснодарского края
Николай Сурмач
Case History