Nataliya Kriger with her husband outside the courthouse

Criminal trial

In Birobidzhan, the Cassation Sent the Case of Nataliya Kriger, Convicted for Her Faith, to a New Appeal Hearing

Jewish Autonomous Area

On August 2, 2022, the 9th General Jurisdiction Court of Cassation overturned the appeal decision in the case of Nataliya Kriger and sent the case for a new trial at the appeal stage. The verdict for faith is considered not to have entered into force.

On July 30, 2021, the Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region found Nataliya Kriger guilty of extremism, considering her presence at the services of Jehovah's Witnesses a crime, although this belief is not prohibited in Russia. The court sentenced her to 2.5 years suspended and 1 year of restriction of liberty. The believer appealed the verdict, but on November 25 the Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region approved it. Nataliya considered these decisions illegal and filed a cassation appeal.

“April 19 and May 6, 2018, several families of the Christian religion peacefully gathered together at their homes, read and discussed the Bible, prayed, sang religious songs. This became the basis for criminal prosecution against me. Such persecution was carried out not because I had committed any crime, but because of who I am — a Christian, one Jehovah's Witness,” Nataliya wrote in her appeal.

According to Nataliya Kriger, law enforcement agencies have not established a single fact of her illegal activities. “Even [under surveillance] nothing was recorded to claim that I or any of Jehovah's Witnesses committed or called for illegal acts. Not a single person has been identified who suffered from the activities of believers,” says Nataliya.

Having considered the arguments of the believer, the court overturned the decision of the appellate instance, which recognized the sentence for faith as just. The new appeal hearing will be held in a different composition of judges of the Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region.

The Kriger case in Birobidzhan

Case history
In May 2018, the home of a Birobidzhan resident, Natalya Kriger, was searched by law enforcement officers. Three days earlier, a criminal case was initiated against her husband Valeriy for extremism, and in February 2020, the FSB initiated a criminal case against Natalia herself. She was accused of continuing the activity of an extremist organization. In August 2020, the believer’s case went to court. The prosecutor requested a sentence of 4 years in prison for her, and in July 2021 the court gave the believer a 2.5-year suspended sentence. The court of appeal upheld the verdict, but in August 2022, the court of cassation sent the case back for a new appeal, which, in turn, returned the case for review to the court of first instance to another judge. He also gave the believer a 2.5-year suspended sentence. The court of appeal upheld this verdict.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Jewish Autonomous Area
Locality:
Birobidzhan
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, she committed deliberate actions related to the resumption and continuation of the activities of the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in the city of Birobidzhan
Court case number:
12007990001000007
Initiated:
February 12, 2020
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
UFSB of Russia in the Jewish Autonomous Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-37/2023 (1-713/2022; 1-46/2021; 1-464/2020)
Court:
Биробиджанский районный суд ЕАО
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Куликов Александр
Background