Unjust Verdicts

Astrakhan Regional Court Affirms an Unprecedented Six-Year Prison Sentence for Anna Safronova — One of Jehovah's Witnesses

Astrakhan Region

On April 14, 2022, the Astrakhan Regional Court, by an appeal decision, approved the sentence of Anna Safronova, 56,—6 years of real imprisonment. The panel of judges, chaired by Nikolay Marevskiy, considered the discussion of the Bible and the collection of funds to help fellow believers extremism.

Thus, the record-breaking sentence for female Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia came into force. The believer still insists on her innocence. She has the right to appeal the verdict in cassation.

Anna Safronova drew attention of the security forces in June 2020: she was brought in as a witness in a case against four fellow believers. A year later, a criminal case was opened against Anna herself, a search was conducted in her house, after which the believer was taken away for interrogation and placed in a temporary detention facility for a day. The next day, the court placed Anna under house arrest. After the guilty verdict was announced, she spent 80 days in a detention center waiting for an appeal.

The judge of the first instance repeatedly and grossly violated the right to defense and a fair trial in relation to the believer: he interrupted the hearings, did not allow the defense side to file petitions; gave the lawyer one week to familiarize himself with the 27 volumes of the case. At the same time, witnesses for the prosecution pointed out that there was no extremism in the actions of Anna Safronova.

In the Astrakhan region, eight believers have already been subjected to criminal prosecution. Four of them were also severely punished simply for not refusing to practice the peaceful religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a representative of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, commented: “In Russia, a criminal can get even a shorter sentence for killing or rape. Justice officials put harmless talk of the Bible on a par with heinous crimes.”

The case of Safronova in Astrakhan

Case history
In June 2020, Anna Safronova’s apartment was searched, and she became a witness in a case against four believers from Astrakhan. A year later, the investigation initiated a criminal case against the believer herself, accusing her of participating in the activities of an extremist organization and financing it. She was included on the Rosfinmonitoring list of extremists, and her bank accounts were blocked. Soon after, the apartment, where Anna’s mother, who is over 80, also lived, was searched again. Safronova was placed under house arrest. In November 2021, her case went to court, and by the end of January 2022, Anna was sentenced to six years in a penal colony, which was an unprecedented harsh sentence for women who are Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. This is exactly what the prosecutor requested. In April 2022, the Astrakhan Regional Court, and later the cassation court, approved this verdict.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Astrakhan Region
Locality:
Astrakhan
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, she "personally took part in online meetings ... in the form of collective religious worship, sequential singing of songs and prayers to Jehovah God, studying articles and watching videos."
Court case number:
12102120011000010
Initiated:
May 28, 2021
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Astrakhan Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2), 282.3 (1)
Court case number:
1-5/2022 (1-306/2021)
Court:
Трусовский районный суд г. Астрахани
Judge:
Александр Лепский
Background