On the photo (left to right): Vera Zolotova, Snezhana and Konstantin Bazhenov
A secondary appeal acquitted three believers accused of extremism in KamchatkaKamchatka Territory
On January 18, 2022 the Kamchatka Regional Court, for the second time considering the case of spouses Konstantin and Snezhana Bazhenovs and Vera Zolotova, found them not guilty of extremism. This is the second acquittal of Jehovah's Witnesses charged under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code since the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation issued an explanation.
"I would like to thank the panel of judges for the fair outcome of the case. Appeals hearings are now taking place all over Russia regarding the illegal convictions of Jehovah's Witnesses. We hope that the Kamchatka example will be effective for other judges, and they will take the courage to correct the mistakes made by their colleagues," commented Yaroslav Sivulsky, representative of the European Jehovah's Witnesses Association, on the court decision.
In September 2020, the Yelizovsky District Court sentenced three local residents to 2 years of suspended sentence, considering that 75-year-old Zolotova and 44-year-old Bazhenovs participated in the activities of an extremist organization by discussing the Bible with fellow believers. The appeal left the verdict unchanged, but the believers appealed it in the cassation instance, which returned the case for a second appeal hearing. The acquittal verdict, issued by judges D. E. Urban, A. Y. Ivakin and O. F. Slobodchikov, came into force immediately.
Two months earlier the Ninth Cassation Court in Vladivostok, having cancelled the appellate decision of the lower court, recommended that the regional court take into consideration the explanation of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation from 28 October 2021, which stated that the worship of Jehovah's Witnesses and their joint rites and ceremonies do not by themselves constitute a crime under Article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code.
The Russian government has repeatedly stated that decisions of Russian courts to liquidate and ban Jehovah's Witnesses organizations "do not assess the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses and do not contain restrictions or prohibitions on the individual practice of the above-mentioned doctrine."