On the photo (left to right): Vera Zolotova, Snezhana and Konstantin Bazhenov

Legal Victories

A secondary appeal acquitted three believers accused of extremism in Kamchatka

Kamchatka 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."

Case of the Bazhenovs and Others in Yelizovo

Case history
In 2018, in Yelizovo, Snezhana and Konstantin Bazhenov, both teachers, as well as widowed pensioner Vera Zolotova, were detained, their houses were searched, and a few days later they had to sign a recognizance agreement. The Investigative Committee equated the holding of joint meetings for worship to illegal activity. In September 2020, the court gave each of them a 2-year suspended sentence. The court of appeal upheld this decision, but the court of cassation returned the case for retrial to the territory court. In January 2022, it acquitted the believers, but the prosecutor’s office achieved that the verdict was overturned in the RF Supreme Court, and the case was returned to the appeal stage, and later the courts of cassation supported the verdict of a 2-year suspended sentence.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Kamchatka Territory
Locality:
Yelizovo
Suspected of:
according to the investigation, together with others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as “organising the activity of an extremist organisation” (with reference to the decision of the Russian Supreme Court on the liquidation of all 396 registered organisations of Jehovah’s Witnesses).
Court case number:
11802300004000052
Initiated:
August 17, 2018
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Investigative Department of the city of Yelizovo of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Kamchatka Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-78/2020
Court:
Елизовский районный суд Камчатского края
Judge:
Юлия Пискун
Background