Ilya Olenin in the courtroom, July 2022
In the Chelyabinsk Region, One of Jehovah's Witnesses Ilya Olenin Was Fined by a Court for Discussing the Bible Among FriendsChelyabinsk Region
On July 26, 2022, Judge Oleg Klementyev of the Snezhinskiy City Court of the Chelyabinsk Region found one of Jehovah’s Witnesses Ilya Olenin guilty of organizing the activities of an extremist organization and imposed a fine of 500,000 rubles on him. The believer insists on his complete innocence.
Ilya Olenin, a design engineer by profession, faced persecution for his faith not for the first time. “The FSB and police officers raided our worship service on April 17, 2017,” the believer said. “An [administrative] case was brought against me under an article for missionary activity. First, the Justice of the Peace, then the city court in Snezhinsk imposed a fine on me, but the Chelyabinsk Regional Court overturned these decisions and the case was closed. Even then, I realized that criminal prosecution could affect me.”
And so it happened. In November 2020, law enforcement officers came to the Olenin spouses with a search (as part of the case against Lyudmila Salikova). On September 8, 2021, a criminal case was initiated against Ilya, which went to court in May 2022. The believer, who is the guardian of an incapacitated father, was under recognizance not to leave for 4.5 months.
The charges were based on the testimony of FSB informant V. Kotelnikova, who, under the guise of a person interested in the Bible, collected information about believers in Snezhinsk and handed it over to law enforcement agencies. In the case there are no victims, no damage, no acts dangerous to society, but the prosecutor asked the court to send Olenin to a colony for 6.5 years.
“It was during the previous trial that I realized — the decision is made even before the court session,” said Ilya Olenin. Nevertheless, the believer intends to appeal the verdict.
Ilya Olenin is the sixth of Jehovah's Witnesses convicted for his faith in the Chelyabinsk region. The remaining five were sentenced to suspended sentences ranging from two to six years.
As follows from the materials of hundreds of criminal cases against Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, security officials consider peaceful gatherings of believers where they study the Bible, listen to Bible lectures, sing songs and pray together as a crime. Criminal prosecution for faith continues in spite of repeated assurances from the Russian authorities that the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses is not prohibited.