Unjust Verdicts

An Appeal in Vladivostok Upheld the Sentence of Two Believers from Luchegorsk—a Six-Year Suspended Sentence for Practicing Faith in God

Primorye Territory

On April 21, 2022, the Primorskiy Regional Court in Vladivostok approved the verdict against Yuriy Belosludtsev and Sergey Sergeyev from Luchegorsk. A panel of judges chaired by Yevgeniy Oleshchenko found the believers guilty of practicing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, interpreting this as extremism.

The lower court sentenced civilians to 6 years of suspended sentence with a probationary period of 5 years and restriction of freedom for 1 year and 9 months. They had to spend half a year in a pre-trial detention center, about 5 months under house arrest and more than two years under house arrest. They were included in the list of extremists of Rosfinmonitoring, having blocked bank accounts.

The accusations against the believers were based on videos of conversations on biblical topics made by an FSB agent. The court ruled that talking about God and reading the Bible with friends was extremist activity. The verdict has entered into force. The believers still do not admit their guilt and have the right to appeal to the court of cassation.

This is already the fifth conviction of Jehovah's Witnesses in Primorye Territory. In total, criminal cases for faith were initiated against 39 people in the region. It should be noted that the first in Russia acquittal of a Jehovah's Witness under Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation was canceled by the same court of appeal.

In connection with the growing number of criminal cases against Jehovah's Witnesses, Tatyana Moskalkova, the Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia, noted in her report to V. V. Putin: “The events taking place with the followers of Jehovah's Witnesses make us think about the existence of a conflict between the constitutional right to practice one's religion . . . and signs of extremist activity specified in Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.”

Case of Sergeyev and Belosludtsev in Luchegorsk

Case History
In March 2019, the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case for their faith against Yuriy Belosludtsev and Sergey Sergeyev from the village of Luchegorsk. They were accused of participating in the activities of an extremist organization and involving others in it. The investigation considered that the men were in a “criminal conspiracy” to “study and discuss religious material on topics about Jehovah.” Later, operatives searched their homes. The believers spent more than six months in a pre-trial detention center, and then another 5 months under house arrest. In June 2020, court hearings began, and a year and a half later, Belosludtsev and Sergeyev were sentenced to 6 years probation. The prosecutor asked for a sentence of 5.5 and 5 years in prison, respectively. The Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation upheld the conviction.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Primorye Territory
Suspected of:
according to the investigation, together with others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as organising and participating in 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:
March 11, 2019
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigative Committee of Russia for the Primorye Territory
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1.1), 282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-4/2022 (1-17/2021; 1-145/2020)
Пожарский районный суд Приморского края
Евгений Стефанюк
Case History