In the photo: Alexander and Svetlana Polozov, Stepan and Ksenia Shevelev

Criminal trial

An Element of Crime Is Absent — a Norilsk Court Returned to the Prosecutor the Case Against Believers Aleksandr Polozov and Stepan Shevelyov

Krasnoyarsk Territory

On April 18, 2022, the judge of the Norilskiy City Court of the Krasnoyarsk Territory Natalia Kuzmenkova decided to return to the prosecutor the case against Aleksandr Polozov and Stepan Shevelev. According to the judge, their being Jehovah's Witnesses is not a crime.

The criminal prosecution of Shevelev and Polozov began in October 2019, when the special forces broke into a campsite in Norilsk, where men rested along with their friends. Two years later, the case against the believers was sent to the Norilskiy City Court of the Krasnoyarsk Territory. The prosecutor demanded the punishment in the form of 6 years of suspended sentence with a trial period of 5 years with a ban to occupy senior positions in public organizations.

Aleksandr Polozov spent 90 days in the detention center. "The most difficult thing was to part with my wife," said the believer. His arrest was especially painful for Aleksandr's mother: she had to call the ambulance on several occasions. In spite of the difficulties, Aleksandr preserves a positive attitude: "Even if the situation seems hopeless, [it is important] not to get discouraged."

The events had a negative effect on Stepan Shevelev's family as well. He and his spouse are grateful to fellow believers for their support. Stepan recalls: "At times the messages came when we were in the strongest fear and anxiety." They themselves also try to help those in need.

Already 26 Jehovah's Witnesses in the Krasnoyarsk Territory face criminal persecution for their faith. Two of them—Andrey Stupnikov and Anatoliy Gorbunov—were sentenced to 6 years in colony, Vitaliy Sukhov—by 6 years of suspended sentence, Anton Ostapenko—6 years and 3 months suspended sentence.

Case of Polozov in Norilsk

Case history
In October 2019, special forces surrounded a camp site in Norilsk, where about 50 people gathered for a friendly meeting. Some of them were interrogated. The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against Stepan Shevelev and Aleksandr Polozov, accusing the believers of organizing the activities of a banned organization. They were searched. Polozov was arrested and sent to a pre-trial detention center for 90 days, after which he was taken on recognizance not to leave. The same measure of restraint was chosen for Shevelev. In June 2021, the case of the believers went to court. The prosecutor requested a 6-year suspended sentence. The judge returned the case of Polozov and Shevelev to the prosecutor, not seeing corpus delicti in their actions. In July 2022, the Krasnoyarsk Regional Court approved this decision. However, in May 2023, the case went back to court. This time, the prosecutor requested 6 years in prison for the believers. In December 2023, the court sentenced Polozov and Shevelev to 6 years suspended each.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Krasnoyarsk Territory
Locality:
Norilsk
Suspected of:
According to the investigation he “organized meetings ... in compliance with distinctive —  for this association — actions expressed in religious speeches, services, and propaganda of the activities of the banned organization ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’”
Court case number:
11902040013000096
Initiated:
October 20, 2019
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Krasnoyarsk Territory
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-278/2023
Court:
Норильский городской суд Красноярского края
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Сергей Курунин
Background